South Florida (1-0) at (8) Florida (1-0)
By Pat Taggart, Associate College Football Editor - The Sports Network
GAME NOTES: The eighth-ranked Florida Gators struggled a bit in their season opener, and they are undoubtedly eager to get back on the field this weekend against the South Florida Bulls in a non-conference affair from The Swamp.
USF is led by Skip Holtz, who became the new leader of the program in January, and his debut was a memorable one. Last weekend, the Bulls crushed Stony Brook by a 59-14 final, but the level of competition in that tilt was a far cry from what the squad will face on Saturday.
"The goal was 1-0, and we are 1-0," said Holtz after his debut. "I'm proud of the way this team competed, proud of the way we went out there and the way we played."
As for Florida, it beat Miami-Ohio by a 34-12 final in the opener, but the performance of the Gators was a bit concerning. They were held scoreless in the first quarter and did very little offensively in the first game of the post-Tim Tebow era.
"I'm very disappointed with our performance; that's obvious," said head coach Urban Meyer. "I told the team I don't mind coaching guys that want to work. It's when you coach entitlement where it's hard to get guys to react."
Florida returns plenty of talent from a team that went 13-1 in 2009, and the Gators are the first team in FBS history to capture 13 victories in back-to- back campaigns.
Last season, USF finished 8-5 overall, including a win in the Independence Bowl over Northern Illinois, but the Bulls were just 3-4 against Big East Conference opposition and want to prove that they are contenders in that league.
This game marks the first-ever meeting between USF and Florida on the gridiron.
Last season, BJ Daniels was forced to start at quarterback for USF as a freshman because of an injury to the team's veteran starter. That experience proved to be invaluable, and Daniels impressed everyone with his play. In the opener against Stony Brook, the now-sophomore completed 15-of-22 passes for 264 yards with a pair of touchdowns and no interceptions. He also ran for a score, showing off his versatility.
"You've got to treat every game just like the other, but Florida is a great team," said Daniels, looking forward to this weekend's showdown. "They're athletic and they're fast. It will definitely be exciting to go down to Gainesville next week."
Evan Landi, who Daniels calls "Mr. Surehands," made six catches for 104 yards against Stony Brook, while Marcus Shaw paced the ground attack with 86 yards and a score. Moise Plancher, another talented tailback for the squad, has a shoulder injury that has him questionable for this weekend. The Bulls posted 563 total yards against Stony Brook and easily overcame a pair of fumbles.
On the defensive side of the ball, Holtz has to be proud of the way that his team played in the opener. Sure, the Bulls did allow Stony Brook to score a pair of touchdowns in the first quarter, but considering the fact that the TD drives covered just 35 and 27 yards, it is hard to pin too much blame on the defense. After those touchdowns, USF shut the door for the rest of the contest.
In total, USF allowed 254 total yards and 12 first downs. The Bulls limited Stony Brook to 2-of-11 success on third down conversion attempts and intercepted an impressive total of four passes. Four different players were responsible for those picks, and while no single player stepped forward with a monumental performance, the overall effort of the defense was strong.
There is no player in the nation that will be more heavily scrutinized this season than Florida quarterback John Brantley, who is replacing Tebow under center in Gainesville. In the opener against Miami-Ohio, Brantley completed 17-of-25 passes with two touchdowns and no interceptions, but his 17 completions covered just 113 yards, proof that few big plays were made through the air. Also, there were major snap issues between Brantley and center Mike Pouncey.
"We have a long way to go as an offense," said Pouncey. "We did some good things, but everybody watching the obvious stuff knows we did terrible."
Jeff Demps ran for 98 yards and a touchdown for the Gators on just eight carries, and Chris Rainey caught a touchdown pass. Florida finished the tilt with a mere 212 total yards and 12 first downs. The squad held possession of the ball for barely over 25 minutes and was 3-of-12 on third-down conversion attempts.
The Florida defense certainly played better than the team's offense, limiting Miami-Ohio to 212 total yards and preventing the RedHawks from scoring a single touchdown. Miami was just 4-of-15 on third-down conversion attempts, a credit to the Gators.
Ahmad Black came through with 12 total tackles, seven more than his closest teammate, and he finished with 1.5 TFLs and an interception. Janoris Jenkins returned an interception 67 yards for a touchdown.
Florida fumbled the ball eight times versus Miami-Ohio, and three of those miscues resulted in turnovers. There are many problems to fix, and Meyer is too good a coach to allow the problems to continue. Expect a tremendous effort by the Gators this weekend.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Florida 38, South Florida 17