South Florida Bulls (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS, 3:30 p.m. EST, College Football Week One, Saturday, September 3, 2011, Notre Dame Stadium, Notre Dame, Indiana
by Scotty L, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Betting Odds: USF +10/ND -10
The South Florida Bulls travel to Notre Dame to take on the Fighting Irish in both squads season opener. Its an interesting game against two teams whose programs have been heading in opposite directions. South Florida, after years of anonymity, have received some national attention in the past several years. Notre Dame, however, is the one-time powerhouse struggling to reclaim its past glory, after going a dismal (for them) 24-26 in the past 4 seasons.
With Notre Dame as high as number-15 in the ESPN poll, it is clear that people are expecting an upswing. Coach Brian Kelly is an offensive-minded guy. He appeared to have his team in good formwinning 4 straight following a 4-5 start. Finishing the year with a 16-point road bowl-win vs. Miami pointed to a better future. With 17 starters returning in their 2nd year under a new system, its difficult to not imagine a better season for the Fighting Irish.
Many of the same things can be said for South Florida. Coach Skip Holtz returns for his 2nd season for a game at his legendary fathers old stomping grounds, also looking to continue the positive momentum from last year. The Bulls finished the campaign with 5 wins in their last 7 games, as the team acclimated to his new system. QB B.J. Daniels struggled after a great freshman year. Now a junior, the projection is that he should be better this season. Basically, you have 2 teams here who spent the bulk of last year finding their bearings with a new program and now its time to see what they really have.
Notre Dames quarterback situation from last year continueswith Dayne Crist and Tommy Rees vying for playing time. Either man should expect good protection, with 4 returning starters from the line. Top WR Micheal Floyd will play, despite some off-the-field issues during the offseason. Some of their best weapons from last year are goneincluding Armando Allen, Robert Hughes, and Kyle Rudolph. Some new playmakers need to step up and fill those gaps.
Their defense has tremendous potential. The linebacking crew is stacked and formidable, with Manti Teo leading the way on the inside. He is one of the best in the country, but blockers will not be able to solely focus on him, with Darius Fleming and Prince Shembo anchoring an explosive group. The line will need to apply more pressure. With both ends returning and a slew of young talent, expect more heat for opposing offenses. Gary Gray and Robert Blanton are at the corners and Jamoris Slaughter is back from an injury. This backfield could be very good. In any event, expect this D to have more mojo. They finished last year strongly, developed during the spring and summer, and should be tough this season.
South Florida had a lot of close games last year. A couple plays here or there could have easily made this team 10-3 or 6-7. As it were, they finished a respectable 8-5, not bad considering the new system and regression of the offense and QB Daniels. The offense really struggled. Daniels got a little better late, but nonetheless captained an offense that was close to the bottom of the nation with a mere 309.7 total yards per game.
The Bulls lost top rusher Moise Plancher, but Demetris Murray and transfer Darrell Scott add some nice dimensions that should help greatly. WR Dontavia Bogan is gone, leaving their most productive ball-catcher from last year being Evan Landi, who only caught 28 passes in 2010. The O-line, which was actually quite good, only returns 2 starters.
South Florida will be counting on their defense. Obviously, for a team that struggled so mightily on offense to be 8-5, the defense mustve been good and it wasaveraging only 20 points per game. Linebackers DeDe Lattimore and Sam Barrington lead an attacking defense that should have a productive year with 6 starters returning and good talent waiting in the wings.
Scotty Ls Pick to Cover the Point Spread: There is the prevailing feeling that its not a matter of if Notre Dame will return to the national scene, but merely when. Fair enough, but when trying to get covers, we cant be bound to that type of sentimentality. The Fighting Irish, a nationally-revered and heavily-backed team, never gets great value from the oddsmakers. Now, with all this talk of a resurgence floating around, it might be difficult to find good betting value on this team. The Fighting Irish have covered only 6 times in their last 26 games as a home favorite and only twice in their last 16 games as a favorite of any kind. Take South Florida plus ten points.