When the Illini played USF last year in Tampa, the game was ugly. It was pouring rain and the two teams racked up 26 penalties for 225 yards. In a bittersweet homecoming for Lovie Smith, the Illini lost 47-23. The Illini gave up 304 yards and 4 TD through the air and 376 yards and 2 TDs on the ground. Further more, the young Illini defense allowed 3 different 300 yard rushers. The Illini defense wasn’t any better, Jeff George couldn’t keep up with the USF attack and threw for only 211 yards, 1 TD and 2 interceptions. A lot of the fault lies within the offensive line that allowed for only 67 rushing yards that night.
The USF offense relies heavily on the their junior QB Blake Barnett. Barnett has completed 70 percent of his passes this season for 512 yards and 5 TDs with only 1 interceptions. Barnett also has 117 yards and 3 TDs on the ground on a team leading 23 carries. The Bulls have 4 different receivers that have more than 10 yards a gain and 3 receivers with more than 100 yards in 2 games. Three of their top running backs have more than 5 yards a carry. This is a very good offense that has scored 41.5 points a game. This is a very strong offense that will give matchup issues for the young Illini across the board.
Luckily for the Illini, the USF rushing defense is 126th out of 130 FBS teams that has allowed 305 rushing yards a game. Knowing Illinois’ troubles at the wide receiver position you know they will be pounding the defense on the ground. The AAC leading 2017 Bull defense is gone from last year and has holes and will need to find young players to step up their game. There are too many new parts which Rod Smith will look to attack at Soldier Field this Saturday.
USF attach is strong, but it is quarterback heavy. Illinois has lacked the ability to get to the QB, so this could be a tough draw for the Illini. On offense, A.J. Bush or M.J. Rivers will have to step it up and connect on passes early to open up the rushing game, something I believe that the Illini will use to attack the USF defense. In order to beat the Bulls, Illinois will have to keep up, something the Illini were incapable of last year. But more on the Illini tomorrow.