Head coach Charlie Strong's seat may be getting a bit warm in Tampa. Dating back to last season, the Bulls have lost seven straight contests. USF kicked off the 2019 campaign with a 49-0 loss at home to Wisconsin.
For Georgia Tech, last week reined in a new era as Geoff Collins began his tenure as the head man in Atlanta. The Yellow Jackets were no match for reigning national champion Clemson in a 52-14 defeat. Georgia Tech has had to completely revamp its system from Paul Johnson’s triple-option attack.
The Bulls and Yellow Jackets played a thriller last season in Tampa as South Florida won a shootout, 49-38. The teams combined for more than 1,000 yards, but three untimely turnovers proved too much for Georgia Tech to overcome. USF quarterback Blake Barnett combined for 292 yards of offense and four total touchdowns.
USF at Georgia Tech
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 7 at 2 p.m. ET
TV: ACC Network
Spread: Georgia Tech -5.5
When USF Has the Ball
Blake Barnett shined in last season's contest between the schools at Raymond James Stadium but was shut down in Friday's opener against Wisconsin. Barnett was just 13-for-30 for 109 yards and two interceptions while being sacked twice. Jordan McCloud was 3-for-3 in relief and could be called upon if Barnett struggles again.
Despite having a decent corps of backs, the Bulls were limited to just 26 yards rushing last week on 23 carries. Senior Jordan Cronkrite rushed for more than 1,100 yards for USF last season but was held to just nine yards in the opener. Cronkrite did lead the Bulls with 23 yards receiving.
A USF offensive line that starts two redshirt seniors was dismal last week as it yielded three sacks and managed just four yards per play and just over one yard per carry. The Bulls will look to get the ground run game going against a Georgia Tech team that allowed 411 yards on the ground on 8.4 yards per carry against Clemson.
Georgia Tech is not only revamping its offensive system, but it is losing its three leading tacklers on defense. The guy to watch for the Yellow Jackets in the secondary is strong safety Tariq Carpenter. Carpenter finished with a team-high six tackles in the opener.
Georgia Tech may have had no answer for Travis Etienne and the Clemson ground game, but it did intercept Trevor Lawrence twice. Tre Swilling and Kaleb Oliver, both sophomore defensive backs, came away with those picks.
When Georgia Tech Has the Ball
Like South Florida, Georgia Tech played two quarterbacks in Week 1 and is expected to do so again on Saturday at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Tobias Oliver, the sophomore, had a monster afternoon last season against the Bulls, going for 97 yards on 18 carries and three touchdowns in the loss. With the system change however, the Yellow Jackets are still trying to find a way to utilize Oliver’s skill set.
Last week, Oliver was just 3-for-9 passing for 65 yards and a pair of interceptions. Redshirt freshman James Graham also is mobile but had a better day passing than Oliver in the opener. He was 4-for-7 for 72 yards and threw the only Georgia Tech touchdown pass.
Joining Oliver and Graham in the backfield will be a handful of backs with Jordan Mason and Jerry Howard Jr. being the most notable. Mason led Georgia Tech last week with 72 yards rushing and a touchdown while Howard accounted for 72 yards from scrimmage and caught a touchdown.
South Florida fared a little better defensively against Wisconsin than the Yellow Jackets did at Clemson, but still allowed seven yards per play, 49 points and 234 yards on the ground. The biggest bright spot for South Florida in the loss was senior linebacker Patrick Macon.
A former player at Oklahoma State, Macon recorded 15 tackles and four stops for loss in the opening loss to Wisconsin. Like Georgia Tech, USF has had to replace a lot of its defensive production from last season. Defensive ends Greg Reaves, Kirk Livingstone and safety Nick Roberts are some players to watch for the Bulls on defense.
USF and Georgia Tech are in very similar positions entering the Week 2 contest. Both teams had trouble generating offense and getting stops against superior opponents in Week 1. Right now, the offensive line for USF looks to be a bigger issue. This game also happens to take place at Bobby Dodd Stadium.