Wisconsin has played USF in football once in the entire history of the world. In 2014, the Badgers beat the Bulls 27-10 (after being tied 3-3 at halftime ::puke::) at Camp Randall and so one can only imagine that nothing has changed since then.
Just in case something has, we enlisted the help of our blog buddies at The Daily Stampede to tell us everything we need to know about USF and why they won so many games in a row last year and then lost so many games in a row.
Here is USF grad, and Tampa Bay tour guide, Robert Steeg!
1) Who are the players to look out for on the offensive side of the ball?
The offensive side of the ball, new Offensive Coordinator Kerwin Bell should have plenty of weapons to choose from. Senior tight end Mitch Wilcox may be one of the best tight ends in the country. With his blend of size and speed, he can cause a lot of mismatches in the middle of the field. Redshirt sophomore Randall St. Felix averaged over 20 yards per catch last season in his first year as a starter. He wore 84 last year, and he played like Randy Moss for good chunks of the season. Senior Blake Barnett showed flashes of brilliance but had to battle injuries last season and could be USF’s first ever 3,000 yard passer in a season.
If I had to pick someone though, it’s RB/WR Johnny Ford. Ford exploded on the scene last year at running back, getting 6.8 yards per carry in a pretty terrible offense overall. Bell wanted to utilize him as much as possible, so he’ll be splitting time lining up at wide receiver and will be a utility player for USF this year.
2) Same question, but on the defensive side of the ball?
If you had asked us this question a week ago vs night of the game, the answer would drastically change depending on a few things. First off, we found out during the press conference Monday of the game that star Senior linebacker Nico Sawtelle is out indefinitely with a neck injury that kept him out during the last six games of the season last year (the same six games that USF lost). Additionally, we are still waiting for the NCAA to come to a conclusion about transfer Junior CB K.J. Sails, who joins us after being the UNC last season.
There’s also a few other transfer players who can make an impact, such as former OK State linebacker Patrick Macon, or former Notre Dame safety Devin Studstill. I’d also say watch out for senior defensive end Greg Reaves, who had to fill the void left by Sawtelle at linebacker last season, but looks to be transitioning back to his natural position.
3) What sort of schemes will the offense and defense be running?
Offensively, Kerwin Bell touts a ‘Show and Go’ style offense, where the offense utilizes a pro style passing game with a hurry-up style offense, our very own Seth Varnadore broke it down beautifully here.
Last year, we primarily ran a 4-2-5 defense due to the overwhelming amount of spread offenses we faced last year. We also lacked a lot of linebacker depth to the point where a converted safety and a defensive end had to fill the void.
This year, I’d imagine more of a 4-2-5 base defense, but with a little bit of added depth at linebacker and along the defensive line, we could see some traditional 4-3 or even a 5-2 look along the front. The hope is that the defense got bigger and stronger in the offseason as they struggled mightily against the run last season due to a frankly undersized and rag tag front seven.
4) Who are you worried about on the Badgers (both sides of the ball)?
On offense, I think the answer should be pretty clear that it’s Jonathan Taylor, USF struggled against the run last year, giving up nearly 250 yards per game. Obviously, our sights will be set on stopping No. 23, but for your non-obvious choice, I’ve heard dangerous things about Quintez Cephus, and although I have full confidence in our defensive secondary, Cephus might be able to find our DBs biting on the run and beat us over the top.
Defensively, I’m anxious to see how if our offensive line will be able to give Blake Barnett time to throw the ball and go through his progressions, thus on the defensive side of the ball Zack Baun scares me since he seems like a “Mr. Do-it-all” being able to rush the quarterback and create turnovers.
5) What are your predictions for the game? Who will stand out and what will the final score be?
For USF, there seems to be an overwhelming sense of positivity on the offensive side of the ball. Many think that Bell’s offense, combined with the senior leadership and experience will result in a fixed offense that can utilize the players properly instead of running a halfback dive 50% of the time and wide receivers running curl routes non-stop.
Defensively, we couldn’t have asked for a worse first game matchup considering the terrible rush defense last year, and a Heisman candidate running back on the other side. Frankly, I just hope both teams have fun, but I think USF will be able to create more plays than most expect and keep the game interesting.
For USF on offense, we will hear Mitchell Wilcox’s name a lot, as he creates that mismatch that can keep defensive coordinators up at night. On defense, Patrick Macon will have to step up big to fill the run stopping duties we relied on Nico so much for.
For Wisconsin, Jonathan Taylor should run for well over 200 yards this game on paper, and I fully expect him to. On the defensive side of the ball, a young secondary will definitely be tested, but guys like Faion Hicks and Deron Harrell will still be able to make some plays.
Prediction: Wisconsin 48, USF 42
Thanks to Robert and the whole gang over at The Daily Stampede who have been great to banter with all week.