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USF's Defense Is Bad, But Really It's Even Worse Than That

The mediocre defensive numbers are actually being padded, if you can believe it. What if we removed that padding?

Louisville celebrates after USF forgot to cover them on a touchdown pass in the third quarter.
Louisville celebrates after USF forgot to cover them on a touchdown pass in the third quarter.
Joe Robbins

The eye test alone tells you what a poor defense USF has this season. When you look at the stats, though, it doesn't look so horrible. They rank 61st overall in total defense, allowing 389.7 yards per game. 72nd in rushing defense, 59th in passing defense, 70th in scoring defense. Mediocre, yes, but not disastrous. (Although Football Outsiders' S&P defensive calculations seem to like USF's defense for some vague reason and ranks them 49th, the FEI for the defense clocks in at #90 overall.)

Well, what if we backed out the FCS game from the schedule? The Bulls only allowed 151 total yards to Chattanooga, a team that played a redshirt freshman QB for most of the game. It was the first time Jacob Huesman ever stepped on the field at the college level, and it went badly. The Mocs only ran for 49 yards on 45 attempts, and were sacked six times.

When you look at USF's defense against only FBS competition, things get much more dire:

  • NEVADA: 549 total yards allowed. 53 runs for 278 yards, 27-for-38 for 271 yards passing. 2 sacks, 3 turnovers. 31 points allowed.
  • RUTGERS: 424 total yards allowed. 42 runs for 147 yards, 23-for-43 for 277 yards passing. 1 sack, 0 turnovers (the fumble recovery was on special teams). 23 points allowed.
  • BALL STATE: 413 total yards allowed. 35 runs for 169 yards, 24-for-36 for 244 yards passing. 0 sacks, 0 turnovers. 31 points allowed.
  • FLORIDA STATE: 424 total yards allowed, 41 runs for 182 yards, 19-for-26 for 242 yards passing. 2 sacks, 0 turnovers. 30 points allowed.
  • TEMPLE: 383 total yards allowed. 51 runs for 216 yards, 16-for-20 for 167 yards passing. 1 sack, 0 turnovers. 37 points allowed.
  • LOUISVILLE: 384 total yards allowed. 33 runs for 128 yards rushing, 21-for-25 for 256 yards passing, 0 sacks, 1 turnover. 27 points allowed.

So against FBS competition, USF is allowing 429.5 yards per game. That's 183.3 yards rushing and 246.2 yards passing, almost 30 points per game, and a dismal 5.95 yards per play. They have a total of six sacks and four turnovers forced in those six games, and of course no interceptions. The only FBS game the Bulls won this year was in the game where they gave up the most yardage, and the offense bailed them out.

Obviously the numbers would be different if we took out FCS opponents for every team (although some of them wouldn't go down as much as you would think, and that FEI rating I quoted above essentially throws out FCS competition). But let's reslot USF's defense nationally based on these new figures, assuming everyone else's positions held.

  • TOTAL DEFENSE: 89th - right in between a dismal Hawaii team, and an SMU team coached by a man who clearly doesn't give a damn anymore
  • RUSHING DEFENSE: tied for 86th with Middle Tennessee State. On the plus side, it's better than like half the ACC!
  • PASSING DEFENSE: 83rd place, between Kent State and UTEP. And remember, these numbers include games against Temple, Rutgers, and Louisville, who don't regularly put up huge passing games. Also zero Air Raid teams on the schedule that would naturally skew the numbers higher for the Bulls.
  • SCORING DEFENSE: 84th, right in front of Washington State, with the same caveat that USF doesn't have any Big XII games, and only one #MACtion game. They gave up their biggest point total of the season to Temple.

Not that you needed any more reason to think Chris Cosh's defense is a travesty. But now you have another one. Great hire, Skip! #LikeACosh, indeed.