Two teams that both suffered lopsided losses in their season opener will try to get their first win of the season when the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets host the South Florida Bulls. Game time is set for 2:00 EST on Saturday, September 7 at Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta. Fans can find the game on the ACC Network.
According to the Week 2 college football odds, the Yellow Jackets are favored by 5.5 points at home. The over/under for the game is set at 59 points.
Georgia Tech had the misfortune of playing defending national champion Clemson in their season opener. The game was as lopsided as most people predicted, as the Yellow Jackets lost 52-14, going down 35-0 before breaking the shutout in the third quarter. Georgia Tech turned it over four times and was more than doubled by Clemson in total yards. On the bright side, the schedule can only get easier from here on out. Plus, most expected growing pains for the Yellow Jackets under new head coach Geoff Collins.
South Florida, on the other hand, doesn’t have as big of an excuse for their dreadful performance last weekend, losing 49-0 to Wisconsin. In fairness, the Badgers are a top-20 team with a Heisman candidate at running back in Jonathan Taylor. However, the Bulls were out-classed on both sides of the ball, managing just nine first downs and 157 total yards in addition to giving up 49 points. After ending last season on a six-game losing streak, the Bulls have now lost seven games in a row. Head coach Charlie Strong is struggling to find answers as the seat beneath him begins to warm.
With any luck, both teams will bounce back from last week’s loss and put on a show similar to the one when they played last September in their first-ever meeting. That was a back and forth affair that saw South Florida overcome a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter to win 49-38. Of course, between Georgia Tech’s coaching change and South Florida’s losing streak, a lot has changed in the past year.
It was tough to learn too much about either team last week since they both got blown out. But I think we learned a little more about South Florida, and it wasn’t good. I wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt against Wisconsin despite last season’s losing streak, but clearly, that was a mistake. Any little stock I had in the Bulls I’m selling. Meanwhile, I’m not going to hold last week’s loss to Clemson against the Yellow Jackets. I think they’ll get a win this week and cover the 5.5-point spread against USF.
With Collins taking over as head coach, Georgia Tech is starting the transition away from the triple-option they ran for many years under Paul Johnson. However, the transition will undoubtedly be a slow one. The Yellow Jackets will still run the ball a lot, but they’ll do so out of more spread formations. Three different quarterbacks attempted a total of just 18 passes last week compared to 45 running plays. Keep in mind, that was with the Yellow Jackets playing from behind all game and starting quarterback Tobias Oliver carrying the ball 20 times, so running the ball remains part of Georgia Tech’s identity.
Fortunately for the Yellow Jackets, defending the run is where South Florida had all kinds of problems last week. In fairness, few teams in the country are going to run the ball better than Wisconsin, especially with Taylor at running back. But the USF defense provided little resistance to the Wisconsin offense, which was also able to pass the ball effectively. A part of me expects Strong to fix some things. But it’s tough to envision a complete turnaround for the South Florida defense, especially against another team that’s going to commit to running the ball.
To make matters worse, I was also disappointed in the play of the USF offense last week. The Bulls have veteran running backs and a veteran offensive line, but both were ineffective against the Wisconsin defense. Quarterback Blake Barnett didn’t help either, completing just 13 of his 30 passes with a couple of interceptions. Even in a lopsided loss, I expected more from the Bulls than 157 total yards and four sacks conceded.
Obviously, the Georgia Tech defense didn’t exactly impress people against Clemson. But the Yellow Jackets won’t be the last team to give up 50-plus points against Clemson this season. The Yellow Jackets will have a chance to take a step forward on that side of the ball, as facing the USF offense will be more of a fair fight.
To be honest, I do have some concerns about Georgia Tech. I’m not sure how productive their passing game will be and there are some questions about their defense, even against a USF offense that struggled last week. But I can’t trust the Bulls right now. The fact that the spread is less than a touchdown makes me comfortable leaning toward Georgia Tech to cover.