When/Where: Saturday October 24th at 4 p.m. ET- Raymond James Stadium (Tampa, FL)
Radio: USF-IMG Network (820 AM)/www.GoUSFBulls.com
All-time series: Tied 1-1
Last meeting: 2014. USF won 14-13 in Dallas.
Notable USF Stats:
-USF looking to post three consecutive wins for the first time since 2011.
-23 touchdowns in six games has already surpassed 2014 total (22).
-Offense has over 1,000 total yards over past two games.
-Marlon Mack looking for fourth straight 100+ yard game.
-Bulls Sharks 11th in nation with 8.2 TFL per game.
Notable SMU Stats:
-QB Matt Davis: leads team in both passing and rushing with 1,856 yards of total offense.
-WR Courtland Sutton: Leads AAC with six receiving touchdowns.
-DE Justin Lawler: 4.5 sacks in six games.
Week 8 Storylines:
Entering Saturday’s matchup with SMU, there’s a growing buzz around Willie Taggart’s USF program. Coming off back to back victories against Syracuse and Uconn, the Bulls sit at 3-3 at the end of October with the possibility of gaining even more momentum as the season rolls on. Certainly the head man on Fowler Avenue has taken notice. “For me personally, I saw each game we were getting better,” Taggart said after last Saturday’s win over the Huskies. “Our guys have a lot of confidence, but they also know each week they have to practice the way they’ve been practicing, and then go out and play with tremendous effort and energy and just make those winning plays.
The Bulls offense in particular has been able to make winning plays down the stretch over the past few weeks. That in part has been due to the usually conservative Taggart allowing QB Quinton Flowers to operate with more open play calling. Because of this, he has been able to get WR Rodney Adams going for the first time this season. Adams tied a USF single game record with three receiving touchdowns last week and hopes to break out even more against a porous Mustang defense.
Also firing on all cylinders is Tom Allen’s Bull Sharks, who exploded for nine tackles for losses vs. Uconn and are starting to click within the 4-2-5. As expected, senior safety Jamie Byrd has become a menace in playing a major role in all aspects of the defense, posing the threat to fly towards the opposing QB like a torpedo for a sack or dropping back in coverage to break up a pass. Byrd will need another great performance to neutralize a dynamic SMU offense with QB Matt Davis.
It is widely understood that 2015 is a rebuilding period for SMU under new head coach Chad Morris. But even with a 1-5 record through the first half of the season, there is still optimism surrounding the Mustang program as SMU has kept pace with teams like Baylor, TCU, and Houston at various points throughout their respective contests.
The Bulls will have their hands full in stopping junior QB Matt Davis, who like Quinton Flowers, is a terror when using both legs and arm as a weapon for the SMU offense. Davis, who has 1,430 passing yards and 14 passing touchdowns during the 2015 campaign, hopes to connect with big 6’4’’, 215 pound receiver Courtland Sutton to exploit a suspect Bulls secondary.
Keys to a USF victory:
Despite the stellar play of disruptive defensive end Justin Lawler, SMU’s incredibly shoddy defense has been their Achilles heel. The Mustangs are allowing 44.6 points per game and in particular 239.6 yards per game, which puts them at 117th in the nation. If Marlon Mack can take advantage of this and lock down yet another big rushing day, the Bulls should be able to lock down their fourth win of the season and rise above .500 in the month of October for the first time since 2011.