Start Time: 12:00 PM ET, Saturday, Oct. 17
Location: Rentschler Field, East Hartford, Connecticut.
Records: South Florida: 2-3, Connecticut 3-3. South Florida leads the overall series 7-5.
Live Stats: here.
Betting Line: Connecticut -2.5. Over/Under: 44.5.
South Florida: The South Florida Bulls offense is successful at a high rate (#38/45.1%), but has a FBS #94 ranked IsoPPP (1.19). Running the ball is the best bet for USF with Marlon Mack (93/576/3TD) in the backfield. The Bulls have the S&P+ #26 ranked rushing attack, a 48.9% success rate, and a #33 ranked stuff rate. Quarterback Quinton Flowers (57/315/3TD) and backup RB Darius Tice (33/199/3TD) round out a run game that averages 224.6 yards per game.
South Florida has an oddly explosive, yet ineffective passing game that puts up 184.8 yards per game. Flowers (66-107/784/8TD) is completing 61.7% of his passes with the majority spread out to five targets. D’Ernest Johnson (13/213/4TD) leads a quintet of receivers that make up 74.7% of all pass targets. Of the five (Johnson, Barr, Adams, Price, Bronson), only Johnson has a catch rate of over 75%. Overall, the Bulls average just over 400 yards per game of total offense.
The Bulls rush defense is one of the best in the nation with a 125.7 S&P+, good for #19 nationally. The rush defense allows a success rate of only 34.2% and stuffs 32.6% of all run plays. Teams are only able to average 3.2 yards per carry versus the stingy defense. Teams have been able to have a little more success in the air versus the Bulls with a 43.4% success rate and 233.4 yards per game. The pass defense has been able to intercept six passes in five games, led by Jamie Byrd (31 tkl, 1.5 tfl, 2 int) with two.
Players to watch on the South Florida defense include: Auggie Sanchez (37 tkl, 3 tfl, 0.5 sacks), Deadrin Senat (25 tkl, 4 tfl), and Deatrick Nichols (18 tkl, 5 tfl, 1 sack, 1 int).
Connecticut: On the offensive side of the ball, it is hard to see the Connecticut Huskies doing much damage. The Huskies are #83 nationally with a 40.1% success rate and #108 in scoring 4.10 points per trip inside the 40. UConn has been very ineffective running the football with a 38.9% success rate and a 0.86 IsoPPP, good for #109 in the nation. 110.8 yards per game on the ground is not getting it done for the offense. Arkeel Newsome (58/305/3TD) is the only effective rusher for the Huskies.
Throwing the football has been more successful for Bryant Shirreffs (97-153/1,271/6TD) in 2015. A 41.4% success rate is just above average, but the sophomore is being sacked on 12.1% of all pass plays, one of the worst sack rates in the country. Noel Thomas (26/361/1TD) and Arkeel Newsome (17/234/2TD) are the leading receivers for Shirreffs with a combined 65 passes headed their way. Tyraiq Beals (16/165/1TD) has come on recently and has the highest catch rate of anyone with 4+ targets (80%). Overall, the Huskies are averaging 213.0 yards per game in the air.
The reason UConn has been able to stay competitive despite a terrible offense is the stellar play of the defense. The Huskies are #34 in IsoPPP allowed, #66 with a 40.9% success rate allowed, and #16 in allowing 3.50 points per trip inside the 40. The Huskies are average versus the run, but boast one of the best short yardage rush defenses in allowing only a 42.1% success rate, 26.2% better than the national average. The Huskies are allowing under 200 yards per game in the air, along with eight interceptions on the year.
Players to watch out for on the Connecticut defense include: Andrew Adams (46 tkl, 1 tfl, 2 int), Jhavon Williams (22 tkl, 3 int), and Foley Fatukasi (20 tkl, 4 tfl, 3.5 sacks).
Prediction: The Huskies have been surprisingly competitive in the first half of their schedule. They could easily be 4-2, rather than 3-3. South Florida has been excellent on defense all season, but finally saw things click versus Syracuse. I expect to see the Bulls continue to improve and use their athletic edge to beat out Connecticut in a hard fought win. South Florida 28, Connecticut 17.