The USF Bulls head to Memphis this weekend to take on the Tigers in a rival matchup. The Bulls are coming off a 52-46 win over Navy that improved their record to 7-2. Now, they face another American Athletic conference opponent that has had good success this year. Memphis is in the western part of the conference, as USF is located in the eastern conference. This makes it an interleague matchup of two solid teams fighting for a chance to appear in the conference title match.
Now, the Bulls have played extremely well on the offensive side of the ball by averaging 43.4 points per game, which is the ninth best in the nation. Also, picking up around 230 yards passing sounds low for a high powered offense, but the running game makes the team flow, which allows them to blow up the scoreboard. With a three-headed running monster including quarterback Quinton Flowers, running backs Marlon Mack, and D’Ernest Johnson, the team currently puts up on average 272.9 yards per game that lands them eighth in the nation.
One player that should be carefully watch in this game for the Bulls on offense is D’Ernest Johnson. The most versatile offensive player on the team has stood out mostly all season. He has caught, returned, and ran the football well. Mack’s robin has scored ten touchdowns (six rushing and four receiving). The amount of yardage picked up on limited 78 carries are superb. On 78 carries, the junior has picked up 428 yards and averaging 5.5 yards per attempt. Look out for Johnson to score at least twice in this upcoming matchup, as he has turned on the jets.
On the other hand, the Bulls defense needs to finish a full game by showing the ability to apply consistent pressure and making the easy routine tackles. The defense played well against Navy in the first half, but later they decided to take their foot off the gas pedal. Memphis has a better passing offense than USF, as they average near 300 yards per game, but the Bulls need to force them to throw the ball all day. Auggie Sanchez and Nigel Harris need to tell their front four to stop the run. Now, Memphis is not a good running team, but the Bulls defense has shown the ability to let up and down rushing teams run all over them.
In addition, the one Bulls defender that needs to show up in a much needed win is Auggie Sanchez. Sanchez has played well, but this game Auggie has to have a career game by forcing Memphis quarterback Riley Ferguson to throw two interceptions and not to allow more than two deep throws, which helped Navy come back against USF. Sanchez will need to cheap more near the sideline, as he has been getting beat there all season, unless Head Coach Willie Taggart uses more of a three linebacker set.
Finally, if the Bulls win in Memphis, this could land them a better bowl game at the end of the season, plus a chance to appear in the AAC title game. They will also be more recognized around the coaching and AP poll on becoming a higher ranked team in the list.