Staff Predictions 2020: South Florida Bulls
Observer Sports Staff | Friday, September 18, 2020
Hayden Adams — Sports Editor
Well that was … something? Despite how COVID-19 has changed so much, it seems like some things never change for Notre Dame football — namely, the offense disappointing in a season opener against a team they should dominate. I’ll give them a conditional pass, with the condition being that they look a lot better in this next game and pretty much every other one leading up to Clemson. They’re taking on South Florida and first-year head coach Jeff Scott (and first-year offensive coordinator Charlie Weis Jr.), who looked pretty good in a 27-6 win in their own season opener. That season opener was against The Citadel.
I don’t care about how difficult it has been to get a rhythm between Ian Book and his receivers. The Irish outclass the Bulls at every single position and it is not even close. The starters should (no, need to) be out of this game after one series in the third quarter, Brendon Clark and Drew Pyne should (no, need to) each throw at least one touchdown to Jordan Johnson or Xavier Watts and one of Chris Tyree, C’Bo Flemister or Jahmir Smith should (say it with me: “no, need to”) get a garbage time score. That said, I’m pretty sure they won’t reach that threshold offensively.
FINAL SCORE: Notre Dame 52, USF 9
Jimmy Ward — Associate Sports Editor
My seats were so high up in the stands last Saturday that I immediately bought a pair of binoculars after the game because I was a little confused as to what exactly I had just seen.
No, it wasn’t a pretty victory, but some newer players got to establish themselves and the veterans were finally able to get back on the field they’ve been craving so much in these past few months. Sophomore running back Kyren Williams and freshman tight end Michael Mayer looked great with the ball. The offensive line was sturdy for the most part, and although Ian Book and his receivers struggled at times, the Irish showed the ACC that they have depth for days. The next-guy-up mentality that exists at Notre Dame has not gone anywhere, and it is why the Irish should be able to compete against Clemson for a second time in December barring any disasters.
We may actually be able to see even more of the depth chart this week if all goes according to plan for the Irish, who should steamroll this South Florida team, a team that went 4-8 last year. Jeff Scott is unproven as a head coach, and although he is assembling a solid group in Tampa, his Bulls will not be able to tame the intensity of the Irish roster. Notre Dame will have an all-around solid day against the Bulls and several second and third-string players will get to see some playing time. Notre Dame will run through this USF team and not look back.
FINAL SCORE: Notre Dame 48, USF 6
Charlotte Edmonds — Senior Sports Writer
I was not a believer in this crazy experiment that is football during COVID-19. Not that I didn’t think it was possible to create a safe playing environment, I just wasn’t sure if it was worth it to try to recreate something when it’s clearly so far from the reality. But alas, as I walked into Notre Dame stadium on Saturday to the sound of “Here Come the Irish” blaring over the PA system, I was reminded how there are some things that can’t be removed from a September Saturday in South Bend … including a lackluster season opener.
With the Blue Devils in the past, Notre Dame now shifts its focus to the Bulls of South Florida and this game is deceptively important. While it might be easy to overlook and go through the motions, offensive coordinator Tommy Rees in his first year leading the charge has to capitalize on the opportunity to integrate his young receivers and rushers into the offensive scheme. With a serious dip in the quality of Notre Dame’s schedule this year, style matters. Ian Book will come out with a chip on his shoulder and I expect Reese will throw in some trick plays and creative offensive looks that will be too much for this USF defense.
FINAL SCORE: Notre Dame 45, USF 10
Ellen Geyer — Senior Sports Writer
You can read my column, but I’m trying a new brand of optimism this season. Let’s see how long it lasts. A win’s a win regardless of what it looks like, and we shouldn’t be surprised that Book struggled with his new targets in week one. Hopefully the kinks (and the jitters) are worked out for week two, and South Florida is another softball game the Irish should be able to use to find a rhythm.
Aidan Thomas — Sports Writer
Well, as a new member of the football beat, I now understand the cynical attitude which tends to permeate our predictions before every game. I optimistically predicted a 38-10 blowout of Duke, only to see Notre Dame nursing a four-point lead into the fourth quarter. The Irish pulled it out, but it was not a convincing win. While Notre Dame shouldn’t have any issue with South Florida this weekend, it is absolutely pivotal that they start working their young playmakers into the offensive scheme. Kyren Williams was a stud last week, but I was disappointed to see Michael Mayer still listed third on the tight end depth chart. He looked like the best weapon in the passing game at times against Duke.
Notre Dame has high-end athleticism in Braden Lenzy, Lawrence Keys III and Avery Davis — all receivers who run sub-4.4 40s. Ian Book can throw a deep ball pretty damn well. Can offensive coordinator Tommy Rees please dial up some deep plays? Chris Tyree can be effective running both between the tackles and to the outside. There were virtually no explosive plays on offense last week, outside of a short slant route that Williams took nearly the length of the field. That has to change. The defense is good, but they were on the field a lot in the first half, and that can’t be the case against better teams. This game isn’t about the result (which SHOULD be an Irish blowout) but rather about seeing vast offensive improvements. I’m not worried about USF’s offense, which put up just 27 points (one touchdown coming on a muffed punt) against The Citadel. Notre Dame will likely shut them down, while ideally piling up points offensively. Although I was disappointed by the first week’s performance, I’m back with some optimism for game two.
FINAL SCORE: Notre Dame 56, USF 7
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.