By Brad Meyer | Published 10/10/2020 | USF Football
Tampa, FL - It is October 10 in the year nobody wanted and that won't end fast enough.
The Bulls will compete in their first conference home game this season and the first home game with fans welcomed into a socially distanced Raymond James Stadium.
The East Carolina Pirates sail into town after two convincing defeats. After three consecutive postponed contests to open the season, ECU welcomed UCF to Greenville and proceeded to get walloped 51-28. The next week, the Pride of Purple Pirates went to Atlanta to have Georgia State hang a 49-29 loss on them.
Georgia State is a Sun Belt team with little on their resume to know if they are that good, or the Pirates are that bad.
Most know the Pirates were picked just above the Bulls in the AAC coaches preseason poll. The Bulls, of course, were picked last. Yes, jokes could be made, but in this weird year and strange season dynamic, it's about getting better and preparing for future seasons (and NOT losing to ECU).
The Bulls are 9-1 overall against ECU and 3-1 in Tampa. Last season the Bulls sank the Pirates 45-20 in Greenville's Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. That was the work of one now departed Charlie Strong. So there is something on the line.
They're the next worse.
Historically, we've been better.
Chuck beat them!
In its two losses, ECU's opponents rolled up yards like Hav-a-Tampa once rolled up tobacco. In bunches. The Pirates have given up an average of 558 yards per game - 323 through the air. With South Florida's four headed-quarterback monster, there is plenty of opportunity for one if not two of them to establish themselves as pack leader(s).
The Pirates aren't much better defending the ground game. Bulls' mystery man and leading rusher last game, Leonard Parker, may find some fertile ground this evening. Parker, listed as a defensive back on the Bulls roster, carried the ball seven times for 51 yards against Cincinnati. The remaining rushing attack managed 26 carries for 31 yards. It was Parker's first action of the season, offensively or defensively. Too make it more interesting, the redshirt freshman DB also played
wide receiver in addition to running back in high school.
Cincinnati was allegedly the #15 best in the nation as the Bulls sputtered to a second consecutive loss. The Bearcats looked bad, but the Bulls looked worse. The Pirates bring an opportunity for the Bulls to restore their confidence after the offense committed five ugly turnovers last week.
That starts with a quarterback (or two, if it must be) that can stay on the field and net positive yardage without turnovers. It needs a rushing attack that can average greater than 2.5 yards per carry. Average per rush has declined each game. Add the emergence of a solid receiver or two and the defense can get even better. Last week the Bulls defense spent 36 minutes on the field, even while collecting four turnovers, keeping it manageable for any competent offense.
Granted the QB group faced allegedly #7 Notre Dame and Cincinnati. But the scoring drought lasted more than six full quarters before the Bulls scored with :49 left in the seventh.
The offense has got to contribute tonight and each game going forward. It is for upcoming seasons that truly matter, but the Bulls need to get it started tonight.
7 p.m. - Raymond James Stadium (more info) TV: ESPN+ RADIO: 1250 AM WHNZAUDIO STREAM: iHeartRadio - Bulls Unlimited
Brad Meyer is site founder of and writer for TheBullsPen.com. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.