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South Florida Bulls vs. Syracuse Orange Preview and Prediction


Both teams come into this game with the same offensive philosophy: Run as many plays as possible, as quickly as possible, in order to score the most points as possible.

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In other words, the slower the tempo, the worse off these teams feel they are, so expect a track meet at the Carrier Dome Saturday afternoon.

We know a little bit more about what Syracuse is capable of than South Florida to this point. Each team defeated an FCS opponent in Week 1, but last Friday night the Orange hung around for a little while against a ranked Louisville squad before the Lamar Jackson-led Cardinals pulled away for a 62-28 win.

The loss dropped Syracuse to 1-1 overall and 0-1 in ACC play, but the Louisville game was chalked up as a loss before the season began, so it's not like the Orange feel dejected. If anything, hanging around until the fourth quarter against a team that opened in Vegas as a favorite for this weekend's game against Florida State may even give the Orange a minor emotional boost.

Meanwhile, the 2-0 Bulls are coming off of a 48-17 win over Northern Illinois, which was impressive, but not exactly a signature win of any sort. Northern Illinois isn't going to be confused with what Louisville brings to the table this year anytime soon.

That said, South Florida has an experienced team coming back from last year and is an underrated team in the grand scheme of things. With the emergence of Houston this year, people are starting to gain more respect for the AAC, and despite not belonging to a Power Five conference, South Florida is a pretty heavy favorite in this game.

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South Florida at Syracuse

Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 17 at 3:30 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ACC Network

Spread: South Florida -10

Three Things to Watch

1. Etta-Tawo Time
Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey has found a go-to weapon in wide receiver Amba Etta-Tawo. The transfer from Maryland has separated himself as a legitimate deep threat and he and Dungey have developed a nice chemistry over the first two games. After catching 12 passes for 210 yards and a touchdown against Colgate in the opener, he followed with eight receptions for 103 yards and two touchdowns — including a 47-yarder — against Louisville, further proving his value as someone who can make plays regardless of the opponent. South Florida this season has yet to face a receiver with Etta-Tawo's ability, so expect the Bulls to have to adjust to the 6-foot-2, 202-pounder's speed early on and maybe even roll a safety over to his side to limit his big-play capabilities.

2. Bull Rush
South Florida's offensive exploits are certainly noteworthy, but it would be a mistake to overlook its defensive line, which has some talented players that may be flying under the radar at this point in the season. Defensive end Daniel Awoleke can be a problem off the edge, as Northen Illinois found out last weekend. The 6-foot-5, 295-pounder out of Lakeland, Fla., had five tackles and a sack against the Huskies, while fellow defensive end Kevin Bronson, a 6-foot-4, 270-pound sophomore, also recorded a sack plus another tackle for a loss. While the Syracuse offense does a good job of getting the ball out of Dungey's hands quickly, the Orange offensive line isn't at the point yet where it can be counted on to consistently slow a relentless pass rush.

3. Middle Men
The strength of each defense lies at the middle linebacker position. For Syracuse, Zaire Franklin calls the plays, shows good sideline-to-sideline pursuit and is smart in coverage. South Florida's main man is Auggie Sanchez, who piled up 13 tackles with a sack last week. Each player is the prototypical quarterback of the defense and will be critical in getting his team in position in a timely fashion against these quick-strike offenses.

Final Analysis

Each team has the potential to put its fair share of points on the board in this game, but this is going to come down to which one makes the most stops and wins the turnover battle. It's hard to grade exactly what Syracuse's defense can do based off of the Louisville game, because Lamar Jackson will run up big numbers on almost everyone. That said, Auggie Sanchez and the South Florida front seven has a little more of an advantage, so in a back-and-forth game, expect the Bulls to hold serve a few more times to come away with the victory.

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Prediction: South Florida 38, Syracuse 31

— Written by Adam Kurkjian, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and is a reporter for the Boston Herald. He has covered the World Series, Super Bowl, Stanley Cup playoffs, Boston Marathon and Little League World Series, among other events from the high school, college and pro ranks. Follow him on Twitter @AdamKurkjian.