We continue our season preview with a look at UConn’s Week 7 opponent, the University of South Florida. The Bulls have had a great run of success lately, coinciding with a decisive advantage in this series, but the #dySFunCTion rivalry lives on.
Who among us could forget when Bob Diaco decided to shut down the passing game in a 2014 contest that the Huskies lost 17-14? Or when UConn played kind of well in a 28-20 home loss the following year? Good times!
USF has won six in a row in this series, and I wouldn’t expect that streak to end in 2018. At least, when the time comes, we look forward to previewing this game and chatting broader AAC with our friends at The Daily Stampede, so there’s that.
In Charlie Strong’s first year as head coach, USF pulled off a rock solid 10-2 record that had fans satisfied but understandably wanting more. It was star quarterback Quinton Flowers’ senior year and many believe the offensive system failed to maximize his talents, so that great season could have been an amazing season. Still, they finished 15th in the 2017 final S&P+ rankings and gave the world an instant classic in a 49-42 loss to UCF.
That’s life now for USF, winners of double-digit games for two years in a row and 29 over the past three years. Willie Taggart recruited at a ridiculously high level while he was there, and Strong is going to reap the rewards. He and his staff are extremely good on the recruiting trail as well, but Taggart was lapping the rest of the AAC for a few years.
As it pertains to this marquee match-up of former Big East rivals? Pretty good. As for the 2018 season, the Bulls are expected to be solid but not among the top tier of the conference. Still, there’s a chance they can take advantage of an open AAC field and surprise people if their young talent can come together.
Graduate transfer Blake Barnett, who started his career at Alabama before transferring to Arizona State, is the new starting quarterback. He didn’t play much at either stop but did just beat out a talented field to win the job. There are two strong options behind him on the depth chart in Brett Kean and Chris Oladokun, one of which could be the starter by the time the Bulls host UConn in October.
Running backs D’Ernest Johnson and Darius Tice are gone, but plenty of dudes are ready to step in and thrive with those touches. Elijah Mack, Florida transfer Jordan Cronkrite, and local product Duran Bell Jr. are looking like the committee that will fill the void. Last year’s top receiver is gone as well, but the second and third-leading receivers Tyre McCants and Darnell Solomon return and, again, they have a bunch of four and three-star players ready to step up.
Defensively, the Bulls have an experienced secondary but a front seven that is going to have a lot of new faces. The defensive line in particular is the greatest area of concern, as USF is looking to replace all-conference tackles Bruce Hector and Deadrin Senat, a third-round NFL Draft pick. Teams might be able to run on them.
Strong is a former defensive coordinator and assistant, and he’ll probably have a really good defense down the road, but this might be a bit of a rebuilding year on that side of the ball.
Prediction: USF 44, UConn 28