It wasn’t all that long ago, USF was one of the stronger G5 schools out there. Coach Willie Taggart built them in 3 seasons to a team that went 10-2 in 2016, followed by a 10-2 season from Charlie Strong. Strongs results declined over the next few years though, and he was eventually replaced by Jeff Scott - a Dabo Swinney long-time disciple.
Scott was an absolute disaster. And that might be putting it lightly. In 3 seasons as the head coach, he won 4 total games - 3 of which were against FCS schools. Only a win over Temple in 2021 saved him from having a 0% win percentage in FBS football. Just... Wow.
Essentially, the Bulls were debatably the worst team in all of FBS the last three year.
If you could have guessed, Scott has now shuffled out the door, and the Bulls hired the next young hot shot offensive coordinator from a big program with recent success: Alex Golesh, the offensive coordinator under Josh Heupel at Tennessee and UCF. He’s gone 1-1 so far, with a loss to Western Kentucky and a handy win over Florida A&M.
As a Heupel disciple, the offensive scheme is one that Alabama fans are now familiar with: the wide receivers will be lined up WIDE, and the ball will often be snapped within 10 seconds of the previous play ending. It’s an offense predicated on very little mental work from the QB, but more of a stand-up-and-throw it kind of thing that relies on slants, screens, and the occasional go-ball for most of the passing game.
So far, though, it’s not been too effective through the air. First year starter QB Byrum Brown is sitting at 51.5% completion rate, a paltry 5.3 yards per attempt, and 2 interceptions to 4 TDs. Receiver Sean Atkins is the only returning pass catcher from last year’s team, and small slot guy is Brown’s favorite target. Khafre Brown (transfer from UNC) also caught an 80-yard go ball in the season opener, so he leads the team with 109 yards.
The rushing game, on the other hand, has been much more of the focus for Golesh. Transfer Nay’Quan Wright played on and off for the Florida Gators the last four years, and now takes over as the lead back, rushing 17 times for 111 yards against WKU in the opener.
Meanwhile, Michel Dukes was a transfer from Clemson a couple of years ago that got 62 touches for the Bulls last year and looks to be building on that role this year. He’s got 21 carries for 104 yards so far. Both backs are averaging over 5 yards per carry through two games. The USF offense is built to spread a defense out as wide as possible and have them open up running lanes between the tackle/guard or just off tackle with TE’s coming across the formation as a lead blocker.
And, of course, Byrum Brown is really the centerpiece of the rushing attack. There’s plenty of designed QB draws, and USF has 0 issues calling a speed option play on 3rd and long. Brown is lanky and quick. He’s not going to break many tackles, but he can gobble up open yards in a hurry. He leads the team with 183 rushing yards.
While there’s been some visible, significant improvement in their offense since last year, the defense is still a ways behind. They’re allowing 32.5 points per game, good for 111th in the country, and are giving up 355 yards through the air per game.
They run a 3-3-5 defense that, to be honest, would be infuriating to be a fan of. Essentially, the Bulls seem to be happy to rush just the front 3 on first down and second and let everyone else sit back in soft zones, then will almost always run a zone blitz of some sort on 3rd downs and drop one lineman back into coverage in some farce of an attempt to throw a curveball.... Except they do it like every 3rd down.
I won’t spend too much time on the players on the defense here. DE Tramel Logan stood out to me when I watched their game vs WKU as an edge rusher that had a nice spin move. And Safety Logan Berryhill is a former wide receiver that now leads the team with two interceptions.
According to the Draftkings sportsbook, Alabama is favored by 33, with an OU of 61.5 total points. In other words, the betting people are thinking 47-14. I think there’s a little bit of implicit bias in hoping for continuation of Alabama meltdown here. You really think the Alabama defense is giving up two TDs to a QB that completes 50% of his passes? I don’t.
And the Tide JUST scored 55 against a MTSU defense, that, to be very honest, is much further ahead of the USF defense.
a 33 point spread seems low to me for this one. USF just has a lot of bad years of football to recover from before they are a program that can strike much fear, and game 3 under a new coach just isn’t that time.
The game will be at 2:30 central time on Saturday on ABC. The Tide will be travelling to Tampa for the game in Raymond James Stadium, so it seems to have gotten bumped up from the ESPN back channels up to the ABC broadcast for the big-market travel aspect, which is kind of cool.
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.