South Florida Bulls (0-0, American) vs Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (0-0, Conference USA)
Time and Date: 3:30 PM ET, September 2
Broadcast Network: CBSSN
Location: L.T. Smith Stadium - Bowling Green, KY
ESPN FPI: Western Kentucky, 67.5%
Line: Western Kentucky -13*
Point Total: 70*
All-Time Series: South Florida leads the all-time series against Western Kentucky, 4-3
Last Meeting: Western Kentucky 45 South Florida 35 - December 21, 2015 (Miami Beach Bowl)
Current Streak: Western Kentucky, 1
*Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.
Setting the Scene
The last time Western Kentucky and South Florida faced off, Jeff Brohm’s Hilltoppers triumphed over Willie Taggert’s Bulls in the 2015 Miami Beach Bowl. After that meeting, the programs went in opposite directions after Brohm left for Purdue and Taggert departed for Oregon. Western Kentucky has sustained their momentum under Tyson Helton, who has taken the Hilltoppers to bowl games in four straight seasons. Meanwhile, Alex Goulash is taking over in Tampa after Jeff Scott went 4-29 over the past three season.
Western Kentucky Outlook
Helton has enjoyed incredible success since he arrived in Bowling Green. The Hilltoppers have won nine games in back to back seasons and are the favorite to win the C-USA this season. It is easy to see why with their explosive offense.
Senior QB Austin Reed returns for an encore performance after he had a 5,000 yard, 50 total TD season. The gunslinger saved his best for last when he went for 500 yards through the air in the New Orleans Bowl to finish last season.
Outside of their QB, WKU will look drastically different than they did a year ago. However, that is the main reason why so many expect them to finally get over the hump and go from division winners to conference champions. The Hilltoppers dealt with their roster attrition by bringing in nine Power Five transfers, including six from the SEC.
South Florida Outlook
While it is hard to imagine that the Bulls will do worse than 1-11 (0-8 AAC) in the new look AAC, there are still more questions than answers ahead of Golesh’s debut. The state of the program is shrouded in secrecy ahead of Saturday’s matchup. Golesh has refused to name starters for his offense outside of the offensive tackles Donovan Jennings and RJ Perry.
Notably, the Bulls have had an open competition at quarterback where Gerry Bohanon Jr is trying to fight off Byrum Brown and Coastal Carolina transfer Bryce Archie. Bohanon suffered a season-ending shoulder injury that required surgery and Brown performed relatively well in relief as he finished out the remainder of the season. That being said, I would expect to see QB by committee for the Bulls in Bowling Green until someone distinguishes themselves.
Alex Goulash was an intriguing hire for USF. However, this matchup is too much, too soon. Western Kentucky have more talent on offense and defense plus they benefit from playing at home. Vegas must know something that I don’t with a -13 line because I wouldn’t expect the game to be competitive by halftime.
Prediction: Western Kentucky 45, USF 13