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2016 Birmingham Bowl, South Carolina vs. USF: Q&A with The Daily Stampede

Editor Collin Sherwin gives insight about South Florida ahead of the Birmingham Bowl.

Central Florida v South Florida Photo by Jason Behnken / Getty Images

With the Birmingham Bowl only days away, we’ve recognized the enthusiastic pieces of information and also the growing concerns in regards to South Carolina. However, I was able to ask a couple questions to The Daily Stampede’s editor Collin Sherwin to gain more insight about the opposition. This is what Sherwin had to say about South Florida:

What are the main keys to the game for USF?

Sherwin: Have the defense get off the field without too much damage, and hope a month off doesn't hurt the offense too much. The Bulls had the third-ranked offense in college football this season by the opponent-adjusted S&P, and they are a joy to watch. But there is no Willie Taggart anymore, and they've had a month to rest on the season. Avoiding rust and playing with passion would seem to be the goal here.

There's no question that the offense can put up points, but in terms of defense they too give up a lot of points and also yards. What needs to be done defensively to make sure that this game isn't a shoot out?

Easy: stop the run. USF is a raft of smoldering tires aboard the Titanic when attempting to get in the way of teams trying to run the football. The line doesn't get in gaps at times, and the linebackers have failed to contain this season. Pounding the ball on USF is likely the best path to success for you, while selling out and forcing Jake Bentley to win from the pocket is likely USF's best way forward.

Which player(s) is the X factor?

The thing about the USF offense is so many guys can make plays, it just depends on what the defense wants to take away. Rodney Adams is the speedster wide receiver with all the stats, but if you shade the coverage to him, Marquez Valdes-Scantling has #1 receiver skills himself. Tyre McCants, Ryeshene Bronson, Darnell Salomon, Mitchell Wilcox at tight end... USF has confidence in all these guys to make plays.

The way a lot of USF's offense works, they take whatever is available based on the pre-snap read. Post-snap, often they'll read a defender and make sure he's never able to make a play (zone read, RPO, etc). It's really tough to stop with the current rules in college football when you have capable athletes at all the skill positions.

And we haven't even mentioned Marlon Mack yet, who is an elite college running back.

NCAA Football: Central Florida at South Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Which match up either offensively or defensively, are you most excited to see?

I want to see what Quinton Flowers can do to elude and extend plays against SEC talent in a front seven. He's been magic for us this season, but outside of FSU hasn't consistently faced elite talent defensively. I think he can do it (he certainly did at times against FSU), but it'll be nice to have him put it on film.

Will we see more of the same style of play in the bowl game under interim HC T.J. Weist?

Our big thing with the offense has been “DON'T TOUCH IT”!! It's about as close to perfection as you can achieve at the Group of Five level. I don't think Weist has a reason or the inclination to do anything differently than what this 10-2 team has done all year.

What are the biggest concerns leading into the Birmingham Bowl?

There have been rumors of a fight at practice a few days ago, and of course losing a coach and gaining a new one changes the dynamics in ways you can't predict. I think that's the biggest concern: how much has the apple cart been upset by the transition.

NCAA Football: Central Florida at South Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Is there a legitimate chance that Quinton Flowers and Marlon Mack forgo their senior seasons and declare for the draft, or do you expect them to both be back next year?

Zero chance Quinton leaves (he's not an NFL QB and he'll have to change positions at the next level), though it is possible Mack does. We're thinking Mack might stay because the running back class in this draft is already pretty stacked, and he's at a position where it's possible he falls to Day 3 or maybe he's not picked at all on Draft Day.

The NFL won't value Mack as highly as they should, but he's been incredible for USF, and there's for sure a role for him in the pros. If he does go, I pray he gets picked in a spot where it's worth it for him and his family. No one that isn't wealthy already should turn down NFL money at a position where you're just one injury away from doom.

Prediction of the game?

The spread is USF -10, and that sounds about right to me. You'll score more than you think, but so will we. 34-24.