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Florida football returns to action on Saturday when it travels down I-75 to Tampa for a tangle with the South Florida Bulls. The two teams hardly have any history, having met only once before exactly 11 years prior to the date and are programs seemingly headed in opposite directions.
The game against USF represents the Gators’ second and final opportunity to tune up before entering the gauntlet that is the Southeastern Conference schedule, with the top-ranked team coming up next weekend. UF still has a bit of headroom for improvement after last week’s showing against the Florida Atlantic Owls, and hopefully, the team can work out its kinks.
The staff here at Gators Wire weighed in with their takes and predictions ahead of Saturday afternoon’s affair at Raymond James Stadium. Here is a look at how we think things will go down tomorrow.
Adam Dubbin - Managing Editor
The Gators get a second tune-up game before the start of their grueling Southeastern Conference schedule that begins with the best team in the nation: the Alabama Crimson Tide. This one will come on the road in Tampa against a South Florida team that has not had a winning season since a 10-2 campaign in 2017. The Bulls got goose-egged in their own conference last year en route to a one-win season and do not appear to be much better after last weekend’s shutout at the hands of the NC State Wolfpack. Florida needs to take advantage of the mismatch on both sides of the ball to fine-tune its game while there is still time. Quarterback Emory Jones still has a ways to go with his arm while the defense can always use more reps to help form a cohesive unit. I expect to see the running game absolutely dominate, allowing for Dan Mullen and the passing game to see what they can do ahead of the ’Bama game. This matchup will be much more lopsided than the first time the two schools met on the gridiron and there is no reason not to believe that Florida will take this one with ease. The defense will dominate while Jones and Co. take a step forward. As a degree holder from both of these universities, I fully expect a wholesale slaughter of the Bulls on Saturday. Florida 49, USF 3
Tyler Nettuno - Assistant Editor/Staff Writer
Last week’s matchup against Florida Atlantic provided a little bit of intrigue. After all, the Owls were a bowl team a year ago, and they’ve been one of the stronger Group of Five programs outside of the UCFs and Cincinnati’s of the world recently. This South Florida team does not present a similar challenge. The Bulls are bad. Real bad. They were one of the worst Football Bowl Subdivision teams a year ago when they finished 1-8, and they opened the second year of coach Jeff Scott’s tenure with a 45-0 shutout at the hands of a middling ACC team in NC State last week. This time around, they at least have the benefit of playing at home against a heavily favored Power Five team, as UF heads to Raymond James Stadium for the first game in its two-for-one series with USF. But considering the stadium will likely have a majority of Florida fans, it’s unlikely the crowd will be much of a factor. If quarterback Emory Jones is going to take a step forward as a passer before the Alabama game, it has to happen here. Jones threw two interceptions in his starting debut last week, but he should have no problem finding success against a USF scoring defense that ranked well into the bottom half of the FBS last season. South Florida played two quarterbacks in their season opener, but neither played well against the Wolfpack. Regardless of which one Florida sees, the Gators defense should be able to build off its strong performance against the Owls in Week 1. A 1 p.m. EDT kickoff on the road could complicate things a bit for Florida, but they should have no issues breezing by USF. If this one’s even a ballgame at halftime, it’s a major cause for concern. Florida 52, South Florida 7
Pat Dooley - Staff Writer
If the Gators want to, they should be able to run on USF all day. But this game is more about figuring out what works when each of the two quarterbacks is in the game. There could be a bit of an issue with overconfidence, and we’ll see how Dan Mullen and staff were able to motivate a year facing an opponent who lost 45-0 last week.
We’re also curious to see how the Gators finish this game after last week. The defense has one last chance to be closer to a cohesive until before Big Boy Football comes to town next week.
Florida 41, USF 14
David Rosenberg - Staff Writer
It's hard to find something nice to say about USF football right now. The Gators should dismantle the Bulls and hold them to a second straight week of scoreless football in what is really just a preparation game for Florida before Alabama next week.USF allowed two NC State running backs to go over 100 yards last week, so the Gators rushing attack may be in for another big day. Malik Davis should get his second-straight 100-yard rushing game and Dameon Pierce will likely top his 31-yard total from last week. Starting quarterback Emory Jones should have an easier time keeping the passing game going after he looked confused at times against FAU. Assuming the score gets out of hand early, Anthony Richardson should get to play the entire second half. Jones could play in the third again if he needs the reps before facing Alabama, though. Zachary Carter is from Tampa, so he'll likely have more fans in Raymond James than the Bulls do. They should be in for a treat after the defensive end recorded three sacks against FAU. There's no reason he can't repeat that performance or top it this week. USF quarterbacks threw three picks last week too, so the secondary should rack up some turnovers this week. As long as the defense doesn't let up in the second half as they did in Week 1, they should get the shutout. Florida 56, USF 0
Jay Markle - Staff Writer Emeritus
The Bulls took on NC State in their season opener and the Wolfpack turned them into mincemeat. Florida, being a broadly superior team to their ACC predecessors, should expect to do the same. Because of the very limited history between these two teams and the fact that the teams are both in-state, an upset in this game would quickly become legendary along the lines of App State's overthrow of Michigan in 2007. The Gators' position group who may benefit most from this game is the offensive line. Preseason, many doubted whether the Gators could hold their own in the offensive trench. Whether those fears are realized has to do with more than just talent, though. Former players will claim that O-Line play is more about cohesion and rapport than any other group on the field. They're coming off a commendable performance against the Owls in Week 1, and carrying that momentum through their second game as a unit would do wonders. If there's any position group who may be on notice heading into this game, it's the linebacking corps. The trio of Mohamoud Diabate, Ventrell Miller, and Ty'Ron Hopper aren't exactly the steadiest hands in the west, or, in this case, the Southeast. Hopper, in particular, got badly beaten on a few off-ball reps against FAU. One of the few things that went right in the Bulls' season opener was a pair of big plays from their tight end, Mitchell Brinkman. There's no reason for them not to go back to that well, and things could get sloppy if the linebackers aren't prepared for him. This is one of those matchups that proves nothing to win and implies serious red flags to lose, so I'll be keeping an eye how it turns out. Florida 42, South Florida 10 [vertical-gallery id=52943]