If any scribe would have suggested before the season that a team’s defense might have much more trouble facing Rice than Alabama, he or she might have had their college football press credentials revoked.
Alabama, with its abundance of five-star recruits, was considered before the season a national title contender.
Meanwhile, Rice is looking for its first winning season since 2014.
In the middle of this debate is South Florida, which is coming off the moral victory of the season, or at least of last week, when the Bulls lost 17-3 at home to mighty Alabama.
And now USF (1-2) hosts Rice (2-1) on Saturday, a game that will air on ESPNU.
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USF Bulls Nearly Pull Off Alabama Upset
First off, a quick look at the Alabama game shows that the Crimson Tide benched their No. 1 quarterback and played Nos. 2 and 3.
You know the old saying – if you have three QBs, you have none.
The score was tied at 3 until Alabama scored on a 1-yard run with 4:35 left in the third quarter. Then Alabama added a 1-yard touchdown run with 33 seconds left in the game.
Still, if you are USF, there are positives to take from this result.
Counting that game, the Bulls are now 9-39 since the beginning of the 2019 season. In the American Athletic Conference, the record is 3-28 during that span.
As for the positives, a sellout crowd of 65,138 attended the game at Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
By the way, what is more surprising – USF hanging with Alabama or the Baker Mayfield-led Bucs starting off 2-0?
Besides the sellout crowd, the game was also televised by ABC, something that can’t hurt recruiting.
As the score suggested, the Bulls had a huge defensive effort led by safety Daquan Evans, who had eight tackles, including four tackles for loss and three sacks. Linebacker Jhalyn Shuler led the way with 11 tackles.
Well, that’s another story.
USF Football Struggling On Offense
Say what you want about Alabama, but the Crimson Tide haven’t forgotten how to play defense, although there may have been a lapse when Texas scored 21 fourth-quarter points in a 34-21 victory the previous week at Alabama.
USF rushed for a healthy 177 yards, but Byrum Brown only passed for 87. That meager passing number won’t cut it even against a team with its own QB crisis. On the positive side, Brown rushed for 92, averaging 4 yards per carry.
So now the question to be asked is whether the Bulls can carry their strong effort into the next game against Rice.
The Owls have a QB in J.T. Rice who could surely start for Alabama. Heck, at one time he did start for USC, Georgia, and West Virginia.
Daniels has thrown eight TD passes in three games. Luke McCaffrey has 11 receptions for 171 yards and four scores. The Owls and Rice can really let it fly, which is good because they average only 3.1 yards per carry.
Rice opened the season with a 37-10 loss at Texas, then had a 43-41 double-overtime home win over Houston as Daniels threw for 401 yards and three touchdowns.
This past week, Rice beat Texas Southern 59-7.
Not much can be deciphered by routing such an outmanned opponent.
This week’s game will tell a lot about both teams. First off, can USF defeat a good team? And second, is Rice a good team?
Either way, USF has likely received more publicity for losing a competitive game to Alabama than it has for any recent wins. There weren’t a lot of headlines over USF’s 38-24 win over Florida A&M the week before the Alabama game.
So we will see the direction USF and Rice are headed after their meeting.
Who would have guessed that a September meeting between these two teams would carry so much intrigue?