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The Big FAMU Rattlers Preview

If USF can win any game this year, it’s this one...right?

NCAA Football: Florida at South Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Opponent: FAMU Rattlers

2021 Record: 1-1

Head Coach: Willie Simmons (16-8, 4th year at FAMU)

Date/Time/Location: Saturday, September 18, 7 p.m., Raymond James Stadium (65,857)

How To Watch/Listen: ESPN+, 95.3FM/620AM WDAE Bulls Unlimited

Series History: USF leads 3-0. Last: Bulls won 51-3 in 2015.

It’s been over a year since the South Florida Bulls have won a football game. When they welcome in the FAMU Rattlers on Saturday it’ll represent the first time in 2021 that the Bulls were favored, and had a legitimate shot at winning the game.

USF (0-2) is coming off a 42-20 loss at the hands of the Florida Gators where for the exception of a five drive span, competed hard against a top-15 program in the country. FAMU is not a top-15 program. But, they are good.

The Rattlers did not play in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but went 9-2 in 2019 under head coach Willie Simmons. Much like the Bulls, FAMU is still searching for their starting quarterback.

Rasean McKay, and Junior Muratovic have split time at QB through the first two games. Muratovic threw two interceptions last week in FAMU’s win over Fort Valley State. The duo has combined to throw for 384 yards and has completed just over 60% of their attempts.

Helping the Rattlers at receiver is Xavier Smith. He has 11 catches for 89 yards and touchdown through two games. He led the Rattlers in catches (77), yards (1,159), and touchdowns (11) in 2019. Four FAMU receivers have at least six receptions, and 60 yards in two games.

USF’s defense is banged up in the defensive secondary with Will Jones (season-ACL), Christian Williams (week-to-week, high ankle sprain), and now Mekhi LaPointe (week-to-week, hip) all out for this week’s game. Walk-on Brock Nichols should figure in heavily into the secondary rotation alongside Auburn transfer Matt Hill.

Head coach Jeff Scott said this week that some of the young players the Bulls were hoping to redshirt may be pressed into duty due to the amount of injuries so far this early into the year.

For the Bulls on offense, they need to run the ball well for the first time all year. The offensive line has done a good job at creating holes, and the running backs need to be able to turn the seven yard gains into 15-yard gains. Quarterbacks Cade Fortin and Timmy McClain need to be smart with the ball, and not force anything. Turnovers and sloppy QB play is a recipe for disaster against FCS schools. Ask the eight (!!!!) FBS schools who have been upset this year by FCS schools.

FAMU has forced seven turnovers already this year, and has forced at least one turnover in their last 12 games. USF must take care of the ball, and not let FAMU gain any sort of momentum. The Bulls must be better on third down than they have under Scott. The Rattlers defense is 11th in FCS with just a 24% third down conversion rate allowed.

Listen, there’s not much to say about this game other than, win. The program needs a win. The players need a win. And, by God, the fan base needs a win. Just take care of business.

USF 38, FAMU 23