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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 23, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Raymond James Stadium (66,321) -- Tampa, Florida. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: SMU 3-2, USF 1-5. Away Record: SMU 1-3, USF 1-2. Neutral Record: SMU 0-0, USF 0-0. Conference Record: SMU 3-2, USF 2-3. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The South Florida Bulls will play their final home game of the season on Saturday afternoon, as they are set to do battle with the SMU Mustangs in an American Athletic Conference clash at Raymond James Stadium.
Since starting the season at 1-4, SMU has turned things around by winning three of its last four games to pull to 4-5 overall. Last Saturday, the Mustangs hosted Connecticut and came away with an impressive 38-21 triumph to push their AAC ledger back over .500 (3-2).
USF has not fared as well recently, as a 23-10 loss to Memphis last weekend serves as its third in a row and dropped it to 2-7 overall (2-3 AAC). The Bulls have not felt the home-field love of late, having lost nine of their last 11 matchups in Tampa.
This tilt marks the first-ever meeting between SMU and USF on the football field.
SMU has one of the top offenses in the AAC, scoring greater than 32 points per game, and it has been especially strong in recent weeks, as it has put up 41.6 points over the past five games.
The Mustangs run a pass-oriented offense, and Garrett Gilbert has proven that he is more than capable of getting the job done. He is completing 65.7 percent of his passes for 3,390 passing yards (fifth-most in the nation) with 21 touchdowns and only six interceptions.
Gilbert's volume has allowed SMU to have the top two pass-catchers in the AAC. Jeremy Johnson has reeled in 87 passes for 925 yards and six touchdowns, while Darius Joseph has 79 receptions for 691 yards and five scores. Keenan Holman ranks fifth in the conference in receptions (57), and is the team's best big- play threat with 895 yards (15.7 ypc) and eight touchdowns.
The running game oftentimes gets forgotten in this offense, as its 101.1 rushing yards per game ranks 114th in the nation. Gilbert (261 yards, six TDs) is the team's top rusher, and K.C. Nlemchi has 198 yards and a score on 37 carries.
While SMU's offense can keep pace with almost anyone, the poor play of its defense (38.1 ppg) is the primary reason it's sitting with a losing record. The unit allows opposing offenses to convert third downs at a 42 percent clip, and it has forced just 12 turnovers.
Randall Joyner has a team-best 74 tackles to go with three forced fumbles. Kevin Pope, Stephon Sanders, Jonathan Yenga and Beau Barnes all have at least 8.5 TFL, while Barnes leads the way with 5.0 sacks.
USF lives at the other end of the spectrum in terms of offensive production, as it ranks last in the AAC in both scoring (14.8 ppg) and yardage (263.7 ypg).
The Bulls have started four quarterbacks this season and haven't found luck with any of them. Mike White (514 yards, three TDs) is the only signal caller on the team with a completion percentage over 50 percent (.592), although he struggled mightily in last week's loss with four interceptions.
Marcus Shaw missed a pair of games earlier in the season, but when he's healthy he is the team's top playmaker, as he has amassed 643 yards and two touchdowns on 115 carries.
Andre Davis has been able to overcome the revolving door under center to piece together a solid campaign, as he has caught 36 passes for 521 yards and two touchdowns.
Even though the Bulls rank fourth in the conference in total defense (364.2 ypg), they have not been able to keep opponents off the scoreboard (30.3 ppg).
DeDe Lattimore is one of the top linebackers in the league, as he not only leads the team in tackles (69) but he has racked up 5.0 TFL, 2.0 sacks, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and an interception. Mark Joyce (53 tackles) has two picks, and Ryne Giddins has four of the team's 16 sacks.
Even though SMU has not played well on the road (1-3), Raymond James Stadium has been far from a safe haven for USF, which is just 1-5 at home this season. With the Mustangs trending in the right direction, they should be able to use their potent passing attack to stick it to the slumping Bulls.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: SMU 31, South Florida 24
11/20 11:13:24 ET
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