UConn moved down in Football Study Hall's S&P+ national rankings, from 99th to 102nd, despite soundly beating Central Florida last weekend.
The S&P+ ratings track play-by-play efficiency so dropping after a win is not uncommon, but it wasn't a huge move anyway. The Huskies also played backups on offense and defense for a good chunk of the fourth quarter, which doesn't help.
South Florida goes into the game ranked 82nd; the Football Study Hall projections have the Bulls as nearly a four-point favorite. The Huskies have a hearty 41.2% win probability though so don't lose hope just yet.
According to the efficiency ratings, South Florida is a superior team in all three phases. Their offense is ranked 89th, over 20 spots better than UConn's, which came in at 113th. The defenses are more evenly matched, with USF's at 69th and UConn's 74th. We can speculate that USF has the special teams edge due to better field position numbers both offensively and defensively.
USF's run-heavy offense is paced by running back Marlon Mack and quarterback Quinton Flowers. Mack is averaging 6.2 yards per carry and has 576 yards and three touchdowns in five games. Flowers has 315 yards, three touchdowns and is averaging 5.5 yards per game. The Bulls also have two more productive running backs in Darius Tice (199 rushing yards, 3 touchdowns) and D'Ernest Johnson (294 yards from scrimmage, 4 touchdowns).
Johnson is the team's leading receiver and two tight ends are second and third even though freshman wide receiver Chris Barr leads the team with almost 20% of passing targets and another receiver, junior Rodney Adams, is second in target rate.
But, as we know from our Q&A with Collin Sherwin, the USF offense made a schematic shift halfway through the Syracuse game. There is an element of surprise as to how it will look, even though we can be sure the offense will be run-oriented.
How to Watch
TV: 12pm, ESPNU (Allen Bestwick, Dan Hawkins)
Radio: WTIC 1080AM (Joe D'Ambrosio, Wayne Norman, Kevin Nathan) | 91.7 WHUS | www.whus.org
Series: This is the 13th meeting between these two teams, with USF holding a 7-5 advantage. The series is tied at 5 apiece since 2005 when both teams have been in the same conference.
Fun Fact: No team has scored more than 20 points in this matchup since 2009.
Q&A with Maryland
Since Maryland recently played USF, and had some other news that may have caught the interest of UConn fans, we thought we'd shoot them a few questions for our readers.
Huge thanks to Dave Tucker from SB Nation's Maryland site, Testudo Times, for answering a few questions for us!
1) Maryland isn't having the best season, but they were able to beat USF pretty handily at home. Were you surprised to see them compete against Memphis the way they did and crush Syracuse?
It was somewhat surprising to see them do well. But more so against Memphis than Syracuse because I don't think Syracuse is that good this season.
USF really struggled in the passing game against Maryland. Quinton Flowers is arguably a better runner than passer. He threw for just 60 yards, completing just 10 of 19 passes and tossed just one touchdown while also throwing a pick against Maryland. I think when Flowers can combine to run and throw for 250 yards or more, USF can be pretty competitive, especially with their other great weapons in their run game, led by Marlon Mack.
Flowers wasn't bad through the air against Memphis (17 of 26 for 199 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) but he struggled running the ball (8 rushes for 23 yards). Against Syracuse, he was better in his passing game (15/22 for 259 yards, 2 TDs) and also rushed for 55 yards on 15 carries and had a TD. If Flowers can do that and Marlon Mack gets the ball 15-20 times, South Florida should have a chance to be competitive in a lot of games.
2) What are the strengths/weaknesses of this team?
I'd say vertical passing game is their biggest weakness while their rushing attack is very good. The Bulls also have Flowers as someone who can takeoff from under center, as well another running back, Darius Tice, who is averaging six yards per carry and has scored three TDs so far.
3) Your take on QB Quinton Flowers.
As I mentioned above, Flowers can be effective if he can balance getting the ball down the field through the air to some of his talented wide receivers, while also picking up yards on the ground. But when he can't get the ball down field, teams can put another defender in the box and limit Mack and USF's rushing attack.
4) You had to know this was coming when I reached out. So Randy Edsall didn't pan out. How are Maryland fans feeling after a tumultuous, yet weirdly promising at times, four years with him at the helm?
A vast majority of Maryland fans are happy the Edsall era is over. Randy rubbed a lot of people the wrong way, starting with the way he said goodbye to the kids at UConn and continuing with 20+ Maryland players transferring during his first season. He often wouldn't take the blame when his team didn't perform well and was never embraced fully by Maryland fans. Edsall certainly ran into some bad luck, like the quarterback injury bug that forced Maryland to start a linebacker under center, but he his teams were almost never able to remain competitive against better competition.
I think people were somewhat surprised and happy with most of Maryland's first season in the Big Ten, beating teams like Michigan and Penn State, but the regular season collapse against Rutgers seemed like the beginning of the end for Edsall's tenure. Most knew this season would be somewhat of a rebuilding year, but the loss at home to Bowling Green followed by blowout losses to West Virginia and Michigan sealed the deal for Edsall. Maryland is certainly in a better position academically, but as you know, that's not what motivates fans to buy tickets.
Saturday TV Schedule
No suggestions this week, you're on your own.