USF Bulls ready to kick off season at home on Sept. 12

Much like everything else during the pandemic, college football has not been spared.

The South Florida Bulls were scheduled to kick off the season this Saturday at Texas. The trip to the Lone Star State was to be followed by visits to Raymond James Stadium from Bethune-Cookman next Saturday and Nevada on September 19.

However, cancellations resulting from many conferences doing away with fall sports and other conferences limiting or eliminating non-conference play left teams like USF scrambling to fill vacancies in their schedules.

Instead of traveling to Austin this weekend, the Bulls open Jeff Scott’s first season as coach at home next Saturday against The Citadel. That will be followed by a trip to Notre Dame, which was announced last Thursday after USF agreed to a three-game series with the Fighting Irish. The dates of the other two games have yet to be determined.

“It is going to be a great opportunity for our university, for our program and for our student-athletes to get great exposure and play on one of the biggest stages in college football,” says Scott, referencing the Notre Dame schedule agreement.

If it were up to Scott, playing non-conference games against the Fighting Irish will be the norm. As it is, the Bulls are scheduled to host Florida next year and play at Alabama in 2023.

“I am a big believer in playing some big-time games,” he says. “Our players work extremely hard and I really think they deserve an opportunity to be able to play on some really big, and unique, stages against some of the best teams in the country. It’s an opportunity for our players to show their skill set and see where we are as a team.”

As far as this season is concerned, the Bulls will see where they are as a team starting next Saturday at Raymond James.

Here is a look at their schedule:

September 12 vs. The Citadel

The Bulls’ first-ever road game was at The Citadel on September 13, 1997. They lost that meeting, before beating the Bulldogs at Tampa Stadium the following season. Those are the only two previous meetings between the schools. The Bulldogs are a member of the Football Championship Subdivision and the Southern Conference, which canceled fall sports but permitted its members to schedule four non-conference games. They went 6-6 last season with one of the wins a 27-24 overtime decision at Georgia Tech.

September 19 at Notre Dame

The Bulls won the only previous meeting against the Fighting Irish. A 23-20 victory in 2011 was interrupted by two lightning delays, the first such delays in Notre Dame Stadium history. The Bulls, who were coached by Skip Holtz, took a 7-0 lead when defensive back Kayvon Webster returned a first-quarter fumble 96 yards for a touchdown. It was the first of five turnovers forced by USF, which recovered an onside kick with 21 seconds remaining to secure the victory. Notre Dame joined the ACC for this season only. In addition to 10 conference games, the ACC allowed each of its members to schedule one non-conference game. Notre Dame is led by senior quarterback Ian Book, who is a preseason Heisman Trophy candidate.

September 26 at Florida Atlantic

Former USF coach Willie Taggart is in his first season in Boca Raton. He inherited a team that won two Conference-USA championships in Lane Kiffin’s three seasons as coach of the Owls. FAU, which was 14th nationally in scoring (36.4 points) last season, must replace its top three receivers but returns quarterback Chris Robison and top rusher Malcolm Davidson. This will be the first meeting between the teams in seven years and USF leads the all-time series 3-1.

October 3 at Cincinnati

American Athletic Conference play kicks off against the Bearcats, who are coming off back-to-back 11-win seasons. UC led the conference in scoring defense last season (20.6 points) and was second against the run. While many key contributors return on defense, an offense under the direction of quarterback Desmond Ridder has a number of holes to plug. The Bulls lost last season’s game at Raymond James Stadium (20-17) on a field goal as time expired. Cincinnati leads the all-time series 10-7.

October 10 vs. ECU

The Pirates were potent offensively under first-year coach Mike Houston, and many key players are back this season. Quarterback Holton Ahlers averaged 312 yards per game, to lead the conference in total offense. Receivers Tyler Snead and C.J. Johnson combined for 120 receptions as freshmen. Snead took the opening kick 100 yards for a touchdown against the Bulls last season, though USF quickly rebounded in a 45-20 win. The Pirates allowed 469 yards per game last season, to finish last in the conference in total defense. The Bulls lead the all-time series 9-1.

October 17 at Temple

Temple graduated a number of key players from a defense that ranked fourth in the conference last season and limited the Bulls to 286 total yards, in the Owls’ 17-7 victory in Tampa. Coach Rod Carey’s team returns quarterback Anthony Russo, running back Re’Mahn Davis and the impressive receiver duo of Branden Mack and Jadan Blue, who was second in the conference with 95 receptions last season. Temple leads the all-time series 4-2.

October 23 vs. Tulsa

This will be a Friday night affair at Raymond James Stadium, between the Golden Hurricane and Bulls. Tulsa, which has won only nine games the past three seasons, should be pretty strong on offense with quarterback Zach Smith and running back Shamari Brooks, who was fourth in the conference last season with an average of 90.1 yards rushing per game. The Bulls won all three previous meetings.

November 7 at Memphis

The reigning conference champs are led by quarterback Brady White, who was the conference’s leader in pass efficiency last year and has 59 touchdown passes in his two seasons with the Tigers. Running back Kenneth Gainwell was named the American Athletic Conference’s top freshman last season, after placing second with 1,459 yards rushing. He had 128 yards, on 14 carries, in a 49-10 win over the Bulls at Raymond James Stadium. Memphis leads the all-time series 6-4.

November 14 at Houston

The Cougars won only four games last season, their fewest since 2004. Clayton Tune became Houston’s starting quarterback when D’Eriq King decided to redshirt after four games and, ultimately, transferred to Miami. Receiver and kick returner Marquez Stevenson is the Cougars’ top playmaker and totaled 11 touchdowns in 2019. The Houston defense has been among the nation’s worst the past two seasons and allowed 468 yards per game last year. The Cougars lead the all-time series 4-2.

November 21 vs. Navy

The Midshipmen will have a different look at quarterback with the departure of Malcolm Perry, who was the conference’s offensive player of the year in 2019 after finishing second nationally with 2,017 yards rushing. Senior Dalen Morris takes over the Navy’s option offense and will operate behind three new starters on the offensive line. Fort Lauderdale’s Diego Fagot is coming off a big sophomore season. The linebacker led Navy and was sixth in the conference in tackles. Navy leads the all-time series 2-1.

November 27 vs. UCF

The War on I-4 has gone UCF’s way each of the last three seasons, including winning the last two encounters by a combined 72-17. Dillon Gabriel emerged as the Knights’ starting quarterback last year as a freshman and finished second in the conference in pass efficiency. Though he lost the services of all-conference receiver Gabriel Davis, who was drafted by the Buffalo Bills, UCF still has plenty of firepower. Senior receivers Tre Nixon and Marlon Williams and senior running backs Greg McRae and Otis Anderson should pile up the yards once again.


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