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magicJack St. Petersburg Bowl: South Florida (7-5) Memphis (6-6)

12/7/2008

Dec. 20, 4:30 p.m., (ESPN2)

South Florida take by Big East blogger Brian Bennett: South Florida will travel only about 30 miles from campus to play in the inaugural magicjack St. Petersburg Bowl. The Bulls certainly thought they were going to go a lot farther this year, especially after starting the season 5-0 and rising to No. 10 in the rankings.

But they lost five of their last seven games and had to beat Connecticut in their home finale just to guarantee a bowl bid. Injuries played a big part in South Florida's demise, and the team should be much healthier for the Dec. 20 game. The defense played up to its potential the last two weeks, holding UConn and West Virginia to 13 points each. The Bulls have the speed to handle Memphis' spread offense, but their own spread needs to turn up its performance.

The Bulls averaged just 12.5 points in its last four contests, and quarterback Matt Grothe threw 11 interceptions in his final five games.

Memphis and South Florida are former Conference USA rivals who have two common opponents this season. The Bulls beat Central Florida by seven in overtime and lost by four at Louisville, while the Tigers lost to Central Florida and Louisville by seven points each.


Memphis take by Non-BCS blogger Graham Watson: Memphis has probably faced the mostadversity of any bowl team this season.

The Tigers lost three quarterbacks in late October and used their third string quarterback, Brett Toney, to keep them in the hunt for a bowl. The Tigers achieved bowl eligibility with a 45-6 win over Tulane in the final game of the regular season.

Starting quarterback Arkelon Hall, who broke his thumb on Oct. 18, has played the past two games and looked a little more comfortable against Tulane than he did in a loss to UCF, though he's still not producing the same numbers that he did before the injury.

The bulk of the offense has been left to the running game, and Curtis Steele, Brandon Washington, and Brandon Ross have shouldered the rushing load. Memphis ranks No. 18 in the country in rushing (205.5 yards per game), and in the four games since Hall's injury, it has rushed for an average of 273 yards per game, including a 379-yard effort against Tulane. The running game has accounted for 62.5 percent of the Tigers' total offense during the past four games.

Unfortunately for the Tigers, South Florida is the ninth-best rushing defense in the country, allowing teams just 97.7 yards per game. It's also one of the best total defenses in the country, allowing just 291.75 yards per game.