Friday will mark the third consecutive weeknight contest for the Tulsa Golden Hurricane (1-4) as they take on the South Florida Bulls (5-0). After a season-opening victory over Central Arkansas, the Golden Hurricane have now dropped four consecutive games after a 41-26 loss last Thursday to Houston. Tulsa was decimated on the ground in that matchup, allowing 312 rushing yards and a 7.6 yards per carry average to the Cougars.
That is not a recipe for success, especially against USF, where starting running back Jordan Cronkrite is just a week removed from setting a school record with 302 rushing yards his last time out. The Bulls are on the opposite end of the spectrum heading into Week 7, riding a five game winning-streak, and are now ranked for the first time this year.
On paper this looks to be a lopsided affair between two teams heading in entirely different directions. Will that hold true on Friday?
South Florida at Tulsa
Kickoff: Friday, Sept. 12 at 7 p.m. ET
Spread: South Florida -7.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Record-setting performance
Jordan Cronkrite was named the AAC Offensive Player of the Week after rushing for a school and conference record of 302 yards with three touchdowns last week in the win over Massachusetts. The former Florida transfer had already been on a roll of late with consecutive 100-yard efforts coming into last Saturday, but he was on another level against the Minutemen, amassing 287 of those yards in the final three quarters alone. In only four games, the junior running back still ranks 16th in the country in rushing yards and now gets to face the 110th-ranked run defense on Friday. A fourth straight 100-yard performance looks like a near certainty at this point.
2. Injuries mounting
Before last week’s matchup with Houston, word came in late that Tulsa’s leading rusher Shamari Brooks would miss the contest due to an injury sustained against Temple. There was little, if any, drop-off with backup running back Corey Taylor in the lineup, as the sophomore rushed for 152 yards and a score, but he also came up gimpy towards the end of the game. Updates will likely come leading up to Friday as to the health status of the two talented rushers, but Tulsa needs a healthy backfield to have even a shot at pulling the upset against USF. Tulsa currently ranks 103rd in the country in passing yards per game, so it's not beating anyone through the air.
3. Turnover party
Aside from the struggles throwing the football, the most glaring culprit in Tulsa's 1-4 start is turnovers. Through five games, The Golden Hurricane have turned the ball over 16 times, which puts them in a four-way tie for dead last in the country. Holding onto the football has been the primary cause for this, as Tulsa has a nation-leading nine fumbles on the season. Conversely, USF currently has a +6 margin and has turned the ball over just three times all year long. If these trends continue on Friday night, there's a very good chance that this game will feature a lopsided outcome in favor of the Bulls.
The health status of Shamari Brooks and Corey Taylor is critical to Tulsa having a shot at pulling an upset on Friday. The Hurricane have been one-dimensional as it is on offense in 2018, and they need their full complement of offensive playmakers in the backfield to help sustain drives and keep this high-powered USF offense on the sidelines. Given Tulsa's propensity for turning the ball over, and the way Jordan Cronkrite is running the ball of late, USF should cruise to a smooth road victory and continue its unbeaten streak.
Prediction: South Florida 38, Tulsa 27
— Written by Mike Bainbridge, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bainbridge is a graduate of Northern Illinois University. Follow him on Twitter @MBainbridgeCFF.
(Top photo courtesy of gousfbulls.com)