USF Preps For The Birmingham Bowl
The Bulls won a team record ten games this season (10-2, 7-1 in the American Athletic Conference). They'll face a South Carolina team that finished with a 6-6 record, 3-5 in the Southeastern Conference's East Division.
Head football coach Willie Taggart hopes the trip to Alabama will end differently than last year's 45-35 loss in the Miami Beach Bowl to his alma mater, Western Kentucky. That was the first bowl game for USF since 2010.
"Our guys deserve it, they worked really hard, got an opportunity to win 11 ball games, got a chance to get better from last year's bowl game, learn from that and get better," Taggart said, shortly after the match-up was announced Sunday afternoon. "For our guys to travel out of the state and go somewhere else and play a game against an SEC opponent is pretty big time."
The opportunity to play a nationally televised game out of state was something both the coach and his team were hoping for.
"As you hear the talk throughout the week, (the players) all (said), 'Coach, I wish we could go to Birmingham,' well, we're going to Birmingham," Taggert said. "Now we got to put on a show."
But first, Taggert added, players have to hit the books, as final exams are this week.
"We're letting our guys concentrate on their academics and finish strong in the classroom and then we'll start practice on Sunday and get ready for the bowl game then," he said.
There have been reports that Taggart has talked with officials from the University of Oregon about their head coaching vacancy, but the coach and USF athletic department officials have refused to comment.
In other bowls of state and local interest, Orlando's Camping World Stadium will host three games:
UCF (playing on its former home field) vs. Arkansas State in the AutoNation Cure Bowl December 17; the University of Miami vs. West Virginia in the Russell Athletic Bowl December 28, and LSU vs. Louisville in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl December 31.
The other Miami University, the one in Ohio, will play Mississippi State in the St. Petersburg Bowl at Tropicana Field December 26.
Florida State and Michigan will play in the Capital One Orange Bowl in Miami December 30 and the University of Florida will play Iowa in the Outback Bowl in Tampa on January 2.
In all, nine bowl games will be played in Florida, ending with the College Football Playoff National Championship Game, which takes place January 9 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
Top-seeded Alabama plays Washington, and Ohio Sate and Clemson play in semi-final match-ups on December 31, with the winners meeting in Tampa.