FACTS & STATS: Site: Raymond James Stadium (65,908) -- Tampa, Florida. Television: ESPN#.com. Home Record: Syracuse 3-1, USF 1-2. Away Record: Syracuse 0-2, USF 1-3. Neutral Record: Syracuse 0-1, Tulane 0-0. Conference Record: Syracuse 2-1, USF 0-3. Series Record: USF leads, 6-1.
GAME NOTES: The Syracuse Orange will attempt to win back-to-back games for the first time this season when they travel to Tampa, Florida for a Big East battle with the South Florida Bulls at Raymond James Stadium.
A 40-10 blowout of Connecticut earned Syracuse its third win of the season after the Orange were dismissed 23-15 in the previous week against nationally- ranked Rutgers. The Orange are now 2-1 in conference play, which already gives the team more Big East wins than it had last season. The 40 points Syracuse had in the win over the Huskies was the most since the Orange's 49-23 upset of West Virginia last October.
Another weekend ended in disappointment for South Florida as the Bulls dropped a 27-25 decision to No. 16 Louisville last Saturday. The loss came despite the Bulls earning a 25-21 lead on a 12-yard touchdown pass from B.J. Daniels to Andre Davis with just over three minutes remaining. Since the Bulls' 2-0 start they have lost five straight games, including all three contests in conference play.
Since joining the Big East in 2005 these teams have met up seven times on the gridiron. That series have been dominated by South Florida which has won six of those seven meetings including the first five. South Florida also won last season's contest 37-17 behind four rushing touchdowns.
Throwing the ball has been the key to Syracuse's offense this season. The Orange lead the Big East in passing offense this season and are one of just 20 teams in the country to average at least 300 passing yards per game (308.4). Ryan Nassib has been the focal point of that attack. Nassib has thrown for 2,164 yards and 13 touchdowns while completing 65.2 percent of his pass attempts. His 270 attempts lead the Big East and with so many passes thrown Nassib's interception numbers have been coming at a higher rate (eight) than last season when he threw only nine.
Marcus Sales and Alec Lemon have formed a very strong receiving duo for Nassib to throw to. Sales is by far the teams number one target with team highs in receptions (37), yards (545) and touchdowns (five). Lemon has been more of a possession receiver catching 32 passes for 428 yards and a single touchdown. Jarrod West (27 rec., 384 yards) has also produced effectively.
The run game has not been needed as much with the way Nassib and company have played, but there is still talent there. Jerome Smith has rushed for 488 yards while Prince-Tyson Gulley has scored a pair of touchdowns (a team-high) and averaged 4.7 yards per carry.
All in all Syracuse is putting up 453.6 total yards and 25.3 points per game which are the second and fifth best marks in the conference respectively.
Syracuse has also done reasonably well on defense, ranking third in the conference in total defense (329.0 ypg), while giving up 23.4 points per game. The Orange have had trouble keeping opposing teams out of the end zone giving up 21 touchdowns which is tied for the second most on the conference.
Spearheaded by the play of players like Dyshawn Davis and Brandon Sharpe, Syracuse has been one of the best teams in the conference in bringing opposing ball carriers down in the backfield. The Orange rank second in the Big East in tackles for loss with 55. Sharpe's 10 lead the team, while Davis has seven TFLs and Siriki Diabate and Deon Goggins each have five. Diabate also leads the team in total tackles with 49.
South Florida's offensive numbers (399.1 ypg, 25.1 ppg) are neither wildly impressive or all that bad, ranking near the middle of the Big East in both total offense and scoring. South Florida has also been effective once it gets into the red zone, converting 90.5 percent of its trips into scores and 71.4 percent into touchdowns. Still that hasn't translated into a slew of wins because of South Florida's inability to hold on to the ball. The Bulls have the worst turnover margin in the Big East this season at -12.
Largely responsible for both the team's success on offense and struggles to hold on to the ball is quarterback B.J. Daniels. Through seven starts, Daniels has thrown for 1,693 yards and 13 touchdowns, but has completed just 55.8 percent of his passes, while being intercepted nine times. Daniels does provide diversity for the offense though with his ability to run the ball as he has 277 yards and four rushing touchdowns this season.
Speaking of running the ball, the Bulls have been pretty solid in that phase of the game led by the tandem of Demetris Murray and Lindsay Lamar. The two have combined to average nearly 110 rushing yards per game while racking up 714 total yards on the ground with six touchdowns. Murray is listed as probable for Saturday's game with an ankle injury.
It was no coincidence that Davis caught the go-ahead touchdown for the Bulls last weekend against Louisville. Davis has a team-high five touchdown receptions this season while also leading the team in receptions (30) and yards (380). Terrence Mitchell (23 rec., 339 yards) is the only other receiver with more than 20 receptions.
While the offense could be much worse the same can't be said about the defense. The Bulls are the worst team in the Big East in both total defense (389.7 ypg) and scoring defense (27.4 ppg). Part of the struggles are due to opposing offenses getting too many opportunities with the offense turning the ball over. The Bulls have given up the most attempts in the red zone (26) and the most red zone scores (22) in the Big East.
DeDe Lattimore has been a very good player in the secondary with a team-high 52 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. He has also contributed on special teams with two blocked kicks. Sam Barrington (50 tackles) has also reached the 50-tackle mark at this point.
South Florida is in dangerous territory right now and cannot afford to lose many more games. With the home crowd behind it and that desperation fueling them, the Bulls should be able to knock off Syracuse, which is winless in just two true road games.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: South Florida 27, Syracuse 23Game Date and Time
Saturday, October 27, 7:00 p.m. (et)