Prediction, Preview, and Odds
#139 USF vs.
#140 Notre Dame
Saturday, September 19, 2020 at 2:30pm EDT
Written by Chris Kubala

A pair of teams that are coming off season-opening wins take to the gridiron in the shadow of the Golden Dome. The South Florida Bulls make the trip to the Midwest as they take on the #7 Notre Dame Fighting Irish Saturday afternoon. South Florida opened their season with a 27-6 home win over The Citadel last Saturday to get off to a positive start. Notre Dame upended Duke 27-13 last Saturday in their season opener at home to start the year 1-0. The Bulls won the only previous meeting between the schools, upsetting the Fighting Irish 23-20 on the road on September 3, 2011.

South Florida Bulls Looking for 2-0 Start

South Florida didn’t overwhelm The Citadel, a FCS program, but did enough to come up with the victory in the opening game of the season. The Bulls face a stiffer challenge in this contest as they have to battle on the road against a top-10 opponent. South Florida trailed 3-0 in the final minute of the first quarter before taking the lead and held a slim 7-6 advantage before taking full control of the game. The Bulls held The Citadel scoreless the final 41 minutes en route to the win. South Florida held a 404-284 edge in total offense, a 20-16 advantage in first downs and forced three turnovers while not committing a turnover of their own. That included a botched punt that led directly to a touchdown.

The Bulls are 39th among active teams in the FBS as they average 102 yards per game through the air on the year. South Florida stands seventh in the nation in rushing offense with 302 yards per contest. The Bulls are tied for 27th in the FBS in scoring offense with 27 points a night while they are tied for seventh in scoring defense by allowing six points per game. Jordan McCloud completed 11 of 16 passes for 68 yards plus a score. Noah Johnson is three of four for 24 yards while Katravius Marsh is four of five for 10 yards. Kelley Joiner is the team’s leading rusher with eight carries for 87 yards plus a score. Johnny Ford (nine carries, 71 yards), Johnson (seven carries, 49 yards, TD) and Brian Battie (three carries, 43 yards) are important contributors in the ground game. When South Florida goes to the air, Randall St. Felix leads the team with four catches but they went for just seven yards. Bryce Miller (three receptions, 36 yards) is the only other player with more than two grabs on the year. Spencer Shrader hit three of his four extra point attempts and missed his lone field goal try on the season.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish Shoot to Avenge Previous Loss to Bulls

Notre Dame had their starts and stops but took care of business against Duke in their opener. The Fighting Irish now gets a chance to avenge their loss at home to South Florida from nine years ago when they take the field here. Notre Dame overcame being down 3-0 after one quarter to take a 10-6 halftime lead. After Duke stayed within four after three quarters, the Fighting Irish’s defense stepped up while the offense put 10 points on the board to put the game away. Notre Dame owned a 441-332 edge in total offense, picked up 24 first downs while allowing 18 and controlled the clock by a 33:24 to 26:36 margin. The Fighting Irish also won the turnover battle, creating a pair of takeaways while committing only one giveaway.

This season, the Fighting Irish stands 21st in the nation in passing offense as they average 263 yards per game through the air. Notre Dame stands tied for 17th in rushing offense with 178 yards per game on the ground this year. On the young season, Notre Dame is 25th in the FBS in scoring offense as they average 27 points per game. The team stands 10th in the FBS in scoring defense as they allow 13 points per contest. Ian Book completed 19 of 31 passes for 263 yards with one touchdown and one interception while adding 12 yards on the ground. Kyren Williams leads the way on the ground with 19 carries for 112 yards plus two scores. Chris Tyree (six carries, 20 yards) and Jahmir Smith (five carries, 15 yards) are next in line. Tommy Tremble leads the team with five receptions for 38 yards. Joe Wilkins (four catches, 44 yards) and Michael Mayers (three receptions, 38 yards) are the next targets in line. Jonathan Doerer hit all three extra point attempts and two of two field goal tries with a long of 48.

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Jeff Scott was a winner in his head coaching debut at South Florida but there’s a big difference in competition between The Citadel and Notre Dame. That’s a major challenge for the Bulls and it’s likely that they’re going to have a tougher time moving the chains on the ground. The Fighting Irish held Duke to just 75 yards and 2.5 yards per carry on the ground in the opening game of the season. South Florida is going to have their challenges containing Book, who is versatile and patient with his reads. Playing at home gives Notre Dame the edge as the mystique of the Golden Dome wreaks havoc with an undermanned USF team. Give the Fighting Irish the advantage as they start clicking and bury the Bulls.

Prediction: Notre Dame Fighting Irish -26

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Both teams scored 27 points in their season-opening victories so one has to think that points could come at a premium here. South Florida held The Citadel to just six points while Notre Dame kept Duke limited to 13 points. The Bulls were extremely run-heavy in the win over The Citadel and may have to adjust to the air should they end up struggling on the ground. That could prove problematic as South Florida played three quarterbacks and yet barely cracked the century mark for yards through the air. Going long fields against a defense like Notre Dame's is going to be a challenge for the Bulls. Notre Dame is still working out the kinks in their offensive scheme. I can see Notre Dame getting to 35 or 38 points at most, which helps this one barely get over the number.

Prediction: Over 50.5
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Written By Chris Kubala

Christopher Kubala has been crunching stats and following sports for over 30 years. His in-depth analysis and passion for sports have led him to writing books about sports, regularly being featured on sports talk radio and as the go-to person for any obscure trivia. Now he is writing for our team here at Winners @ Whiners. Chris keeps an eye on transactions and statistics like a hawk, especially when it comes to football, both the NFL and college. He is also very knowledgeable in the NHL, the NBA, college basketball and MLB. If you want consistency, then be sure and check out Chris’ content daily.