NCAA Football Week 3 Preview: Rutgers at South FloridaRutgers Scarlet Knights @ South Florida Bulls
Time: 7:30 PM EST, Thursday, Sept 13
Spread: SoFLA – 8
Betting Odds Courtesy of Bovada
So far, the story of the season for the Bulls has been their success passing the ball. USF ranks 25th in the nation in passing yardage per game, with 303.5 ypg. Comparatively, their rushing game is struggling, ranking 72nd overall with just 147 yards per game.
The Bulls won by a point last week over Nevada, and took care of business opening night on September 1st against Chattanooga, winning 34-13.
Thursday night’s game at home against Rutgers will produce a much bigger challenge. Though the Bulls are favored by eight points by college football oddsmakers at Bovada, Rutgers is undefeated in their own right at 2-0, having dispatched of Tulane 24-0 opening night, and then shutting out Howard University 26-0 last week.
South Florida’s season outlook featured in my season preview:
South Florida is desperate to contend in the Big East, but it just hasn’t happened yet, and though they are on their way to being an improved program, I don’t see it happening this year either, despite being the second favorite behind Louisville. They started so hot last year with the 4 straight victories, including the huge win over Notre Dame, but they just can’t seem to put it together for an entire season.
Their improvement will hinge upon better third down production mostly and their defense must remain strong late in games, as I’ve said already. It seems like an over simplification to boil it down to two things that should both be rather obvious are instrumental in a team’s success, but just because they know what is wrong at USF doesn’t mean they can easily or quickly address it.
So far, that third down conversion has improved, due to the better rushing. They’ve also took care of business late in games, as evidenced by their edging out of Nevada last week, outscoring the Wolf Pack 12-3 in the last quarter. B.J. Daniels threw for 363 yards and three TDs and it was his pass with only 38 seconds left in the game that clinched it for the Bulls.
WR Andre Davis finished with 12 catches for 191 yards that game, so their passing should begin to take an even firmer hold after the success it produced against a Wolf Pack team that is one of the best teams in the MWC, and is predicted to go 8-4 this season by Athlon magazine.
This is what I said about Rutgers’ season outlook in my season preview:
Rutgers is a contender for the Big East, but even with a strong defense, they may have trouble catapulting South Florida and Louisville. Having a new coach rarely helps. Expectations remain high, but it will be up to Brock to maximize the offensive talent while Flood attempt to build some cohesion and unity within a team that could be very dangerous this year if things fall into place.
So far, their new offensive coordinator Dave Brock’s pro-stye offense has not produced the excellent results that Scarlet Knights fans were hoping for.
The reason Rutgers has been winning is their outstanding defense. They’re 6th in the nation, allowing only six points per game.
Here’s a breakdown of their defense from my season preview:
The secondary of the Knights is strong: Linebackers Khaseem Greene and Steve Beauharnais and nose tackle Scott Vallone are all among some of the best defenders in the Big East. They also have a strong group of linebackers outside of Greene, but Greene is the star, as he earned the Big East co-defensive player of the year with 141 tackles last year. It was the fifth highest in school history and Beauharnais is a fourth year starter in his own right.
The secondary is one of the nation’s best, to be sure. Corners Logan Ryan and Brandon Jones are possible All-Big East selections this year, and the same could be said about safety Duron Harmon. The trio all started every game last year for the Knights. Sophomore Lorenzo Waters could see a starting role as well, after a strong freshman campaign.
They are going to have to work on generating a more effective pass rush this year, though. Last season, they contained the pass just fine, ranking 9th nationally allowing only 172.3 yards per game, but the lack of defensive pressure seemed to cause instability in preventing opposing team’s ground game, as opponents rushed for 141.9 yards per game against the Knights, which was 7th in the Big East. Still, overall, the Knights ranked 14th in the nation defensively overall, allowing only 314.2 yards per game.
Defense remains a strength of this Rutgers squad.
Will Rutgers be able to get it done with defense this week?
That all depends on the improvement of their pass rushing, because as mentioned, B.J. Daniels has been very good for USF.
The game should be a slug fest between two schools that are both on the rise in the Big East. They will have their respective problems with the Louisville squad, but are expected to finish 2nd (USF) and 4th (Rutgers) by Athlon magazine.
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