TAMPA, FL – I smell something funny. It couldn’t possibly be what I think it is – can it?

It’s optimism.

For USF Football.

Who would’ve thought at 1-3 just two weeks ago there would be some positivity for the Bulls’ program? As head coach Charlie Strong said following his team’s 27-23 victory over BYU last Saturday, everyone was ready “to go jump off of a mountain.”

That and then some, coach. There were USF fans rooting for UConn to win. There were fans praying that Charlie Strong was left at Bradley International Airport in Winsor Locks, CT.

Talk about rude.

Get well soon, Blake!

As we were first to report Thursday (alongside Bulls 247’s Will Turner) Blake Barnett is done for the season. On Friday morning he underwent successful ankle surgery. As you would expect, Blake will focus on recovery and then evaluate his football future. All options are open to Blake.

Let’s take a minute, though, to acknowledge the unfair treatment he has received from some Bulls’ fans. I know most understood the offensive line was atrocious at the start of the season (and has only recently shown signs of life) but there were those who decided Blake Barnett should be the fall guy. When Jordan McCloud “tweaked” his wrist against SMU it was Blake who came in and actually moved the offense. Then he paid for it by taking a hard hit to his ankle. Blake has acted like a true professional and been there for McCloud and his teammates. Please wish him well no matter if it’s at USF  or somewhere else.

Moving On

Anyways, back to all that negativity when this team was 1-3: That is now gone (until the next loss) and all that remains is a renewed sense of purpose for the 2019 season.  What lies ahead, though, is a tough road test up in Annapolis as the Bulls take on Navy.

This is just the third time USF and Navy will meet on the gridiron. Each team has won on their respective fields. In 2015 Navy beat USF, 29-17, despite the electric kick return TD from Rodney Adams to start off the game. A year later, it was the Bulls over the Midshipmen, 52-45, at Ray Jay.

A True Battle in the Trenches

Navy (4-1, 2-1 American) enters with its own two-game winning streak. The Midshipmen boast a Top ten run defense (86.0 yards per game). They’re also the best defense, statistically, in the American.  However, they have allowed over 100 rushing yards in two of the previous three games.

USF has found it can do this thing called running the football. It’s pretty rad. Over the last two weeks USF has racked up 556 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns. USF is not afraid to run the ball, especially with the help from tight end Mitchell Wilcox (a.k.a TANK WITH HANDS). Wilcox has been able to bring a little extra force to the offensive line and open up opportunities in the run game. Jordan Cronkrite has benefitted the most with back-to-back games rushing over the century mark. Cronkrite has 46 attempts for 306 yards over the last two games. In the previous four games, Cronkrite had just 77 total rushing yards.

When we look at USF’s rush defense the unit is 88th in the nation allowing 176 yards per game. But that could be misleading considering the team’s aggressive play has made them one of the best groups in the country with tackles for loss. USF highlighted a cool fact in their weekly game notes: USF’s defense ranks third in the nation in “Defensive Mayhem” by Sport Source Analytics. The stats may not always be in favor of the Bulls, but I agree this entire side of the ball is playing at a high level and with a certain confidence that is needed to succeed.

Navy is going to run the triple option. They are so good at it. Why would they ever consider moving on and working in more passing and more spread option? Apparently they are doing that over time, but we will see. Their bread-and-butter comes in the form of the top rushing offense in the country (327.2 yards per game) and tied for the second-most rushing TDs (22) in the nation.

Don’t sleep on the pass game. Navy have only had 43 pass attempts this season, but 27 of those have been completions.

Navy lives by the Clock

Navy is all about clock management. It’s a way of life for them. So far this season the Midshipmen control an average of 34:25 of the 60 minutes in a college football game.

Can USF take advantage of its opportunities and cash in on early possessions? If they Bulls do not keep pace throughout the first half it could be a long afternoon in Annapolis.

Prediction Time

A big question in this game is the status of Jordan McCloud. It is expected that his wrist will be good enough to go on Saturday. If not, the Bulls would be looking at a possible option in Kirk Rygol.

I think this is the game where USF comes back to earth a little bit. I think USF can certainly be in this game into the 4th quarter. But Navy is so disciplined and USF is not. The Bulls have 52 penalties this season while Navy have just 25 penalties.

Can USF go on the road and beat Navy? Sure. Will they? No.

Navy 31

USF 23