Birmingham Bowl: South Florida 46, South Carolina 39 OT, 5 Things That Matter, What’s Next For 2017?

Birmingham Bowl: South Florida 46, South Carolina 39 OT, 5 Things That Matter, What’s Next For 2017?

South Florida survived a big South Carolina comeback attempt for a thrilling 46-39 overtime win. Check out the five things that matter and what’s next for 2017.

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South Florida might’ve collapsed, but it got the bowl win

USF lost its head coach, and it had to break the current run of bad performances by American Athletic Conference teams – but it did it. The Bulls lost star RB Marlon Mack, but Quinton Flowers was Quinton Flowers, completing 23-of-32 passes for 261 yards and two scores with a pick, while running for 105 yards and three scores. It might have been a rough second half – giving up 25 points as the Gamecocks forced overtime, but who cares? 11 wins and a bowl victory over an SEC team is special no matter what.

South Carolina lost, but …

It certainly made it interesting. The concern is the defense that had a month to prepare, and still couldn’t stop an American Athletic Conference team – allowing 469 yards and struggling against the Bull ground game early. Jake Bentley once again showed how exciting and good he is and will be for the next few years, almost pulling off the comeback finishing with 390 yards and three scores, while Deebo Samuel caught 14 passes for 190 yards and a touchdown. However …

Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers

Granted, the last one came on a final desperation move, and one of them was followed up by a defensive stop and a score, but three South Carolina drives were stalled with turnovers inside the red zone. In all, the Gamecocks gave it away five times, putting the defense in bad positions time and again. Granted, the D didn’t help – it couldn’t come up with enough third down stops until late – but the O dug too deep a whole to get out of. On the plus side, the offense showed a spark with 39 points in the final three quarters.

What’s next for South Carolina in 2017?

There was plenty of work to do for Will Muschamp to pick up the pieces from the Steve Spurrier era, but now things are looking stronger. Jake Bentley is the franchise quarterback for the next few years, and Deebo Samuel is a good No. 1 target in a young corps. The running back combination of Rico Dowdle and A.J. Turner are only going to be sophomores, and four starters are back up front. Left tackle Mason Zandi is the only loss on the O.

The defense has to replace LB T.J. Holloman, and the end combination of Marquavius Lewis and Darius English. In all, five starters are gone, but the hope if for star LB Skai Moore to return healthy after missing all year hurt. The secondary had its problems, but it gets three starters back including the corner combination of Jamarcus King and Chris Lammons.

What’s next for South Florida in 2017?

Charlie Strong has a huge task to deal with trying to follow an 11-win bowl season. It all starts with QB Quinton Flowers to keep the attack going, but will Marlon Mack be back for another year? D’Ernest Johnson can handle the work if he’s not. The receiving corps loses Rodney Adams, but the rest of the top targets are back, while three starters are back up front. Losing Left tackle Kofi Amichia is a problem, though.

The defense should be a killer if Strong and his staff can rock right away. Auggie Sanchez and Deatrick Nichols lead a fantastic linebacking corps, while all four starters are back up front. SS Nate Godwin is gone along with corner Johnny Ward, but the secondary should be a positive as the season goes on.