The South Florida Bulls (2-3, 0-1) will travel to face the Connecticut Huskies (3-3, 1-1) in an American Athletic Conference matchup Saturday afternoon. South Florida has won the last three matchups, including a 17-14 win as a 1.5 point favorite at home on September 19, 2014 in the most recent meeting between the teams.
South Florida snapped a three game skid with a 45-24 win over Syracuse last week at home. Connecticut kept Central Florida winless on the year as they rolled over the Knights 40-13 on the road. This game is scheduled to kick off at 12:00 pm ET from Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut and will be televised on ESPNU. Connecticut is currently a 2.5 point favorite in this contest with the over/under set at 44.5 points.
South Florida put together one of their best offensive performances in recent memory as they outgained the Orange 541-305 in the game. The Bulls forced two Syracuse turnovers while committing only one of their own. South Florida had five scoring drives that covered at least 75 yards in the game as they were capable of moving the sticks by rolling up 26 first downs in the contest. Marlon Mack was a force on the ground with 179 yards and a pair of rushing touchdowns, both coming in the second half.
The Bulls are run dependent as they are 102nd in the nation through the air (184.8 yards) but they are 18th in the nation in rushing offense (224.8 yards) per contest. South Florida averages 29 points per game and they are ranked 58th in the nation in scoring defense by allowing 24 points per contest. Quinton Flowers has hit 66 of 107 passes for 784 yards with eight touchdowns and four interceptions while ranking second on the team with 264 yards and three touchdowns on the ground. Mack is the top back in the run game with 93 carries for 576 yards and 3 scores while Darius Tice (33 carries, 199 yards, 3 TD) is the second back that sees some action. D’Ernest Johnson leads the Bulls with 14 receptions for 223 yards with four scores; Chris Barr (13 grabs, 85 yards) and Rodney Adams (11 catches, 108 yards, 2 TD) are the only players with double digit receptions for South Florida. Emilio Nadelman has hit all 18 extra points and four of five field goal attempts on the year.
Connecticut outgained Central Florida by 118 yards, 433-315, in their victory and forced four Knights turnovers in the game. After trailing 3-0 in the game, the Huskies ripped off the next 40 points to keep Central Florida off the board and out of the end zone until the fourth quarter. Connecticut’s two second quarter scoring drives covered nine and 34 yards for touchdowns; they had drives in the third quarter covering 25 yards for a field goal and 16 yards for a touchdown. The Huskies added a safety on a botched kick return by the Knights.
The Huskies are tied for 79th in passing offense (213 yards) and 118th in rushing (110.8 yards) per game on the season. Connecticut averages 19 points per game but they’ve been very good defensively; they are 27th in scoring defense by allowing 18.7 points per game. Bryant Shirreffs has connected on 97 of 153 passes for 1,271 yards with six touchdowns and three interceptions. The Huskies average just three yards per carry in the ground game; Arkeel Newsome leads the team with 58 carries for 305 yards and three scores while Shirreffs (152 yards, TD) and Ron Johnson (64 carries, 148 yards, team high 4 TD) are struggling to do much on the ground. Noel Thomas leads the team with 26 receptions for 361 yards and a score while Tyraiq Beals (16 receptions, 165 yards, TD) is a capable second target; Newsome (17 grabs, 234 yards, 2 TD) is a good safety valve out of the backfield. Bobby Puyol is a strange story at kicker; he’s hit all seven field goal attempts but is 10 of 13 on extra points this season.
South Florida is 8-20 ATS in their last 28 after an ATS win, 2-7 ATS in their last nine after scoring at least 40 points and 1-4-1 ATS in their last six conference games.
The Bulls put together a solid performance last week but they’ll have a tough time duplicating that feat this week against the Huskies. Connecticut has struggled to move the ball on the ground this year, which has hampered them at times, especially trying to grind the clock and win games late. Still, the Huskies are a stingy team defensively and can shut down opposing teams; we’ve seen them keep opponents in check this year. Connecticut wins by a touchdown or so to continue their surprising success this season.