NCAA Friday Night Football: Tulsa/South Florida Preview

by Big Al Staff

The Friday night game on ESPN features a battle of two American Athletic Conference opponents.

Tulsa has only played two games this season, with their scheduled games against Arkansas State on September 26th, along their showdown with Cincinnati last Saturday postponed because of COVID complications. The Golden Hurricanes opened their season with a 16-7 loss at Oklahoma State on September 19th before upsetting Central Florida on the road by a 34-26 score as a 20.5-point underdog two Saturdays ago.

Tulsa returned 13 starters from last year’s team that finished just 4-8. The Golden Hurricanes have won only nine combined games in the previous three seasons under head coach Philip Montgomery now in his sixth year running the program. Tulsa did play nine bowl teams last year. Not only did they average a +45 net yards per game mark in conference play despite their 2-6 record, but they outgained SMU, Cincinnati, and Memphis in losing efforts.

Senior quarterback Zach Smith is back at quarterback after he passed for 3279 yards with 19 touchdowns last season. The former Baylor transfer completed 17 of 29 passes for 273 yards to lead Tulsa to the upset victory over the Knights. Smith threw for three touchdowns in that game for the third time in his career. He leads an offense that is scoring only 20.5 points-per-game with a 358.0 total yards per game average after their first two games.

South Florida opened their season by defeating The Citadel before losing its last four games against four FBS opponents in Notre Dame, Cincinnati, East Carolina, and then Temple on Saturday by a 39-37 score. The Bulls have allowed 40.8 points-per-game in this four-game losing streak while allowing each of these opponents to score at least 28 points.

South Florida returned 13 starters from the team last year that finished 4-8 in head coach Charlie Strong’s third year with the program. Strong was let go in the offseason, with the Bulls’ turning to former Clemson co-offensive coordinator hired as their new head coach. The 39-year-old tapped Jordan McCloud as his starting quarterback. The redshirt sophomore started games last season before his year ended prematurely by injury. McCloud is completing 64.3% of his passes this year, but he is averaging only 150 passing yards per game. South Florida is scoring only 19.0 points per game while averaging 329.6 yards per game.

The Bulls have been stingy with their pass defense as they are holding their opponents to 173.6 passing yards per game, which is 12th-best in the nation. Defensive back Mehki LaPointe has picked off two passes.

South Florida has won all three past meetings between these two teams. The last encounter was in 2018 when the Bulls rallied from a 24-10 deficit to win the game by a 25-24 score on a last-second field goal.

BetOnline has Tulsa as an 11-point favorite with the total set at 50. The ESPN broadcast begins at 7:30 PM ET.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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