Opponent: No. 18 Florida Gators
2022 Record: 1-1
Head Coach: Billy Napier(1-1 at Florida; 41-13 overall)
Date/Time/Location: Saturday, September 17, 7:30 p.m., Ben Hill Griffin Stadium (88,548), Gainesville, FL
How To Watch/Listen: SEC Network, 102.5FM, Bulls Unlimited
Series History: Florida leads 2-0. Last: Gators won 42-20 in 2021
For the just the second time in USF history, the Bulls will travel to Gainesville to face the Florida Gators inside The Swamp. The 2010 edition of the game proved to be a struggle on the field (USF lost 38-14) and in the stands (resoundingly the hottest game day fan experience). USF—and the fans—will get a reprieve from the heat, but they won’t get one on the field as the Gators will look to Saturday as their “Get Right Game” after that brutal loss to Kentucky last week.
If the Bulls want any chance for success, they’re going to have to a page out of the Wildcats playbook and force Gators’ QB Anthony Richardson to be a one-dimensional quarterback by taking away his running ability. Then dabble in the success of App State’s game plan from last week’s upset over Texas A&M where they controlled the ball for over 41 minutes, and converted on third downs to extend the drive. The Aggies ran just 38 plays in the loss.
“These are the games where shorter, the better,” USF offensive coordinator Travis Trickett said. “When we have possession, we have to maximize it.”
USF will need an out-of-body experience on third down on both sides of the ball to complete Trickett’s ideal game. The Bulls are converting just 25% (124th in FBS) of their third downs on offense, and have allowed opposing teams to convert on 53% (122nd in FBS) of their money downs.
The Bulls got off to another slow start last week at Howard, but eventually scored on six of eight possessions to put away the Bison. If the Bulls get off to another slow start, we’ll be looking at another BYU game quickly.
Gators QB Anthony Richardson probably had his worst performance of his young career last week where he threw two interceptions (one pick-6), and completed just 14-of-31 pass attempts. Last season, the Bulls were aggressive (for them) against the pass, and the Gators were able to hit big shots down field early and often. New defensive coordinator Bob Shoop has shown some aggressive tendencies through the first two games, but he will have to strike the perfect balance to have any chance for success.
Once again (it seems like a running theme), the offensive and defensive line match up seems to tilt (heavily) in the Gators direction. There were times versus Howard that the Bulls defensive line got gashed, blown off the ball, and generally mauled. It feels like more of the same is in store for USF against UF.
On the injury front, USF should have linebacker Antonio Grier (hamstring), WR Ajou Ajou (ankle), and nickel Matt Hill back in action. It remains to be seen if CBs Deqaun Evans and Christian Williams will be available for the Bulls. On the Gators side, they’ll be without starting RT Michael Tarquin and starting LB Ventrell Miller. Miller had racked up 15 tackles and 1.5 TFL in the first two games.
Most USF fans know winning this game is a loooooong shot, but being competitive is still on the table. If USF goes down big early, there are going to be even louder conversations about what head coach Jeff Scott is doing (or not doing) to get the team prepared for games.
In Scott’s 20 FBS games as a head coach at USF, the Bulls have trailed by two scores 10 times at the end of the first quarter. The sluggish starts need to stop if this team wants to turn the corner they claim they’re turning.
Prediction: UF 55, USF 21