Thursday’s bowl games
Birmingham: South Florida (10-2) vs. South Carolina (6-6), at Birmingham, Ala., 11 a.m., ESPN – The bowl season can be tough for teams playing with interim head coaches or for lame-duck staffs, but South Florida might be in a stronger position than most. Willie Taggert is out and former Texas Coach Charlie Strong is in for the Bulls, but neither will be on the sideline for this game. What really matters for South Florida is that it has Quinton Flowers in the huddle. Flowers is something approaching a Deshaun Watson, and if you are a South Carolina fan that should send a shiver down your spine. Earlier this month, Watson, Clemson’s quarterback, passed for 347 yards and six touchdowns against the Gamecocks. Flowers has passed for 2,551 yards and 22 touchdowns and run for 1,425 yards and 15 touchdowns. The pick: South Florida, 34-27.
Belk: No. 22 Virginia Tech (9-4) vs. Arkansas (7-5), at Charlotte, 2:30 p.m., ESPN – Arkansas has been wildly inconsistent, defeating Mississippi and routing Florida, but also losing to Missouri and getting crushed by Auburn. The Razorbacks want to control the clock, and they have the running back to do it in Rawleigh Williams III, whose 1,326 yards rushing leads the Southeastern Conference. He will challenge a defense that will be a Hokies strength as long as Bud Foster is the coordinator. Virginia Tech also might have the third-best quarterback in the Atlantic Coast Conference, which is saying something since the top two are Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson of Louisville and runner-up Deshaun Watson of Clemson. Jerod Evans has passed for 3,309 yards and 27 touchdowns and run for 759 yards and 10 touchdowns. The pick: Virginia Tech, 24-20.
Alamo: No. 12 Oklahoma State (9-3) vs. No. 10 Colorado (10-3), at San Antonio, 6 p.m., ESPN – You can talk about Colorado’s opportunistic defense, or the punishing running of Phillip Lindsay, but the bottom line for the Buffaloes is that they are as good as quarterback Sefo Liufau. Colorado’s senior leader is big, smart and tough, and he’s a threat whether running or throwing. But he’s also a bit injury prone. If he can stay on the field, the Buffaloes can hang with just about any team in the nation. Oklahoma State was on a seven-game winning streak until it was thumped by Oklahoma in what for all intents and purposes was the Big 12 Conference championship game. Cowboys quarterback Mason Rudolph passed for 25 touchdowns with only four interceptions, and freshman Justice Hill comes in with 1,042 yards rushing. The pick: Colorado, 27-24.