Matchup: FAU (2-3, 1-0 AAC) @ USF (3-3, 2-1 AAC)
When: Saturday, October 14th, 3:30 PM
Where: Raymond James Stadium
Radio: FoxSports 640
Opening Line: FAU +2
Weather Forecast: Current conditions in Tampa, FL
The Series: This will be the Owls' fifth matchup in program history against USF, going 1-3 in their four previous encounters. FAU is 4-6 all-time against AAC opponents.
USF Team Site: Here
FAU's victory in their first conference game as a member of the American Athletic Conference was one to remember.
Sunshine in the daytime and a relentless monsoon of rain in the nighttime summed up what was a suspenseful and gritty affair. Nonetheless, the Owls showed they were up to the task and jumped past the hurdle they needed to get through to continue growing together as they close in on the midpoint of the season.
They now head up to Tampa against a USF squad that have exceeded some expectations, including being at the top of the AAC standings for their first two weeks of conference play. FAU has faced the Bulls four times stretching back to the program's infancy in 2002, losing 51-10 that year, 35-23 in 2007, and 31-3 in 2010 before finally emerging victorious in a convincing 28-10 win in 2013. Notable alumni from their last encounter include Jaquez Johnson, Jonathan Wallace, Daniel McKinney, Adarius Glanton, Randell Johnson, D'Joun Smith, and Brandin Bryant.
One particular player who transferred from Auburn to FAU over the summer had a significant performance against Tulsa. Desmond Tisdol (pictured below via Bob Markey II) led the team in tackles with eight (four solo), providing the Owls much-needed urgency to keep the Golden Hurricane offense at bay throughout key periods of the game when they tried to make a rally.
"Coach Roc Bellantoni gets on me every day to be the best version of myself and that's what I did," Tisdol said of his performance. "I had to process things faster and prepare even more to be a leader on this defense now than when I came in."
"Very excited for this weekend, a while back they gave Alabama a great game," said Tisdol of the Bulls. "Really want to see what the competition is about there at South Florida."
Expect the run game to keep picking up the pace. Having its best performance yet with a season-high 234 yards, with running back Larry McCammon III accounting for 130 as it's the most he's had in any game he appeared in, it is possible that FAU will continue to emphasize it to ensure they maximize their chances of winning.
Wide receiver Lajohntay Wester continues to tighten his grip at the top of the charts as one of the best receivers in the country. Even though he is second in catches with 52 behind Missouri's Luther Burden who has 54, Wester still has the most receptions per game with 10.4. He's also tied for 26th in receiving yards with 499.
As for quarterback Daniel Richardson, his display against Tulsa could be an anomaly. He was on pace to throw over 200 yards before the rain stopped him at 144 yards on 18 completions. Barring any torrential rain showers, having Richardson get the ball in the air could also play a key role in the Owls coming out of this game victorious.
The Owls will return home to Boca Raton as they host UTSA at Howard Schnellenberger Field on October 21st at 6:00 PM. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+.
Star Watch: LB Jackson Ambush It was very fitting for FAU to stop Tulsa in their tracks with a certain Ambush. The linebacker made five tackles (three solo) including the game-sealing sack to put the Golden Hurricane away. He leads the team in tackles with 36 (17 solo) including two for a loss of yardage, and an interception. With USF's offensive line being prone to giving up sacks, he could be due for his best game yet as an Owl.
Final Word Having ran the ball more against Tulsa mainly due to weather conditions, expect FAU to have a balanced distribution for their rushes and passes. It should also be imperative for the Owls to amp up the aggression in their defense by getting as many sacks as possible, especially if they were to disrupt the momentum of the USF offense.
With this game being showcased nationwide on ESPN2, it will be a big opportunity for the Owls to impress fans and those who have interest in what the team has to offer as a member of the American. With a win, it could result in them gaining more attention from high school recruits and become a stronger program in the long term.
Key Stats Comparison
Projected to finish at the bottom of the conference standing before the season began, USF already has three wins attached to their name as they are halfway through their campaign.
The Bulls picked up two conference victories over Rice and Navy, which was crucial for them considering the way they inspiringly competed against No. 10 Alabama, holding the Crimson Tide to 17 points despite losing 17-3. Despite having a 2-0 record in The American for the first time since a 3-0 start in 2018, they were unable to stay undefeated in AAC play, falling in a 56-35 blowout at UAB this past Saturday.
USF has been successful at the offensive end, averaging 31 points per game which is good for sixth in the American and 60th nationally. First-year head coach Alex Golesh is in charge at the helm, having developed strong offenses during his stints as offensive coordinator at UCF in 2020 and Tennessee in the 2021 and 2022 campaigns.
Despite having a vulnerable defense that allows 32.8 points per game (21st-worst nationally), USF has players that are more than capable of causing trouble for FAU. Among those in particular are linebacker Jhalyn Shular, who tops the team in tackles with 44 (19 solo), safety Logan Berryhill with 30 tackles (20 solo) and two interceptions, and defensive back Daquan Evans with 29 tackles (21 solo) including a team-most three sacks.
They also boast a trio of receivers who have 200 or more yards this season: Sean Atkins, Naiem Simmons, and Khafre Brown. Atkins is the undisputed leader with 422 yards (47th in the country) and three touchdowns on 36 receptions, Simmons has 401 yards and three touchdowns on 22 catches, and Brown has totaled up to 273 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 15 completions.
There is a massive weakness USF has struggled in doing: protecting their quarterback. They have allowed 26 sacks for an average of 4.3 per game, putting them in the bottom 10 (tied-125th out of 130) of the nation.
After this matchup, the Bulls will play their last non-conference game of the season as they travel up north to East Hartford to play UConn on October 21st at 3:30 PM. The contest will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network.
Star Watch: QB Byrum Brown The ringleader of the USF offense is undoubtedly their star quarterback in Brown. Demonstrating his skillset as a dual-threat, he has combined for 18 (11 passing, seven rushing) of the 23 touchdowns the Bulls have scored so far this season. He is tied for 11th in the country in rushing touchdowns, as he ranks 29th in the country in passing yards with 1,483 and 34th in rushing yards with 460.
Final Word The Bulls have shown a preference in running the ball more than passing it, with quarterback Byrum Brown being at the forefront. With this game-plan, they have been efficient in scoring in the red zone and converting on third down more often than FAU has so far this season.
USF needs to have a lot of preparation in protecting Brown from FAU defenders, who have conceded less yards per play as they have started to develop a knack in accumulating sacks as the season goes on. If their offensive line can come through with their blocking, the Bulls can feel confident in their chances of coming out with the victory.