Birmingham Bowl build-up gives Texas Tech, South Florida Magic City mojo

Birmingham Bowl build-up gives Texas Tech, South Florida Magic City mojo
At the Monday Morning Quarterback Club Birmingham Bowl reception were, from left, Cornelius Bennett, Birmingham Bowl Executive Director Mark Meadows, Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury, South Florida coach Charlie Strong and ESPN analyst Mack Brown. (Birmingham Bowl)

Texas Tech senior wide receiver Dylan Cantrell was looking to deliver some good cheer during a trip to Children’s of Alabama hospital on Thursday.

So too did South Florida football players.

“Hopefully, we can put a smile on some kids’ faces who are going through some tough times,” Cantrell said.

Texas Tech and South Florida prepare for 2017 Birmingham Bowl from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

There has been no shortage of smiles this week for members of the Texas Tech and South Florida football squads.

From their competition on the lanes of Vestavia Bowl to their trip Thursday night to the Stardome Comedy Club, the Red Raiders and Bulls have enjoyed their trip to the Magic City.

But nobody in either traveling party has forgotten that they are on a business trip. The teams are set to face one another in a competition that really matters, the 12th Birmingham Bowl.

South Florida (9-2) of the American Athletic Conference squares off against Texas Tech (6-6) of the Big 12 at 11 a.m. on Saturday at historic Legion Field. The game will air on ESPN.

This will be the first-ever meeting between the two schools.

Tickets for reserved seats are $50 and general admission tickets are $30. A limited number of Legion Field reserved parking passes are available for $30.

One parking pass is available for each four tickets purchased.

Weather could be a factor with a 75 percent chance of rain at kickoff that tapers off to 45 percent by mid-afternoon.

Once again, the Birmingham Bowl is bringing fans of two football programs to town for a game. And once again, the presence of those fans won’t go unnoticed in the metro area.

David Galbaugh of the Greater Birmingham Convention and Visitors Bureau said this year’s Birmingham Bowl is expected to have more than an $8 million impact on the economy as those fans stay in hotels, dine in restaurants and take part in various forms of entertainment.

Today’s entertainment includes the Uptown Street Fest from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the Uptown Entertainment District. That will include a Texas Tech pep rally at 5 p.m., a South Florida pep rally at 5:30 and fireworks at 6.

Each team has been busy in practice, getting ready for the challenge of its opponent.

“The biggest thing that concerns me is how athletic they are overall, the team speed South Florida has,” Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “Offensively, they’ve got a lot of team speed we’re going to have to somehow try to counteract.

“That’s not something you can coach,” Kingsbury continued. “We’ll have to be really good in our technique and fundamentals.”

The Bulls are making their third appearance in Birmingham’s bowl game and so far are undefeated in this postseason contest. They played in the first one in 2006, beating East Carolina 24-7, and outlasted South Carolina 46-39 last year in the first overtime game.

South Florida coach Charlie Strong can’t help but notice what the Red Raiders do when they’ve got the ball.

“It’s a team that can score,” he said. “They’re a team that scores a lot of points. When you talk about Texas Tech, you always think of a team that’s very well coached. They’re going to put pressure on your defense.”

The Bulls and Red Raiders have balanced game preparation with some fun experiences while they have been in town. The Monday Morning Quarterback Club hosted the coaches and players at a welcome dinner Tuesday night; former Texas coach Mack Brown was the speaker and former University of Alabama and NFL linebacker Cornelius Bennett was honored as the as the 2017 Golden Flake Legend of Birmingham.

Players and coaches have also visited the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, competed in bowling and barbecue-eating – linemen from both squads were the unofficial winners there – and they jointly played the role of Santa’s helpers in the Sugar Plum Shop at Children’s of Alabama, which was presented by Regions Bank for patients and their families who must spend the holidays at the hospital.

The in-hospital toy store was built and operated by hospital staff, corporate partners and community volunteers who invite parents of currently hospitalized patients to “shop” – free of charge – for gifts for their child and siblings.

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