COLUMBUS, Ohio – South Florida hopes to celebrate its return to the national rankings by improving to 6-0 for the second straight season when it visits Tulsa for an American Athletic Conference matchup Friday night. The 23rd-ranked Bulls registered 574 yards in the 58-42 victory at Massachusetts last weekend to remain one of 11 unbeaten teams in the nation, and they dive into the meat of the league schedule for the next seven weeks.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: USF -7.5
“The next seven games are conference games, so they all count. … ,” USF coach Charlie Strong told reporters. “We’ve got to be at our best and we’ve got to play well. We’ve got to play with effort, we’ve got to execute and we’ve got to come out and play with passion.” Strong said the Bulls must win the battle at the line of scrimmage to allow junior running back Jordan Cronkrite to have another big game and nullify an experienced offensive line for Tulsa, which includes three seniors with 113 starts between them. The Golden Hurricane have dropped four straight games, but lost to No. 14 Texas by only seven and held a nine-point lead on Houston with 13:10 to go last Thursday before giving up the last 24 points in a 41-26 setback. “That was a pretty tough one to swallow,” Freshman quarterback Seth Boomer told the Tulsa World after shining in his first career start against the Cougars. “I felt like we were the better team through three quarters, but we didn’t finish the game. We’re taking steps, but I’m tired of taking steps. We just have to win ball games. We’re going to. I can promise that.”
ABOUT USF (5-0, 1-0 AAC)
Cronkrite, a transfer from Florida, has strung together three straight 100-yard rushing performances after setting a school and conference record with 302 against UMass. “You watch him play and you really see that burst. When he hits that burst, then he takes off. … it’s hard for guys to catch him,” Strong told reporters of Cronkrite. “He has outstanding speed, runs behind pads, can run through tacklers, and does a really good job protecting the football.” Quarterback Blake Barnett has completed 65.1 percent of his passes and boasts four receivers with at least 216 yards through the air, led by freshman Randall St. Felix (21 catches, 351 yards, touchdown) and senior Tyre McCants (26, 300, two TDs).
ABOUT TULSA (1-4, 0-2)
Boomer got a chance to start with sophomore Luke Skipper (four TDs, six interceptions) injured and completed 13-of-31 passes for 227 yards and a touchdown with one interception. Golden Hurricane coach Philip Montgomery told reporters Boomer will be better in his second game after facing a tough Houston defense and there is a solid ground attack to depend on that features Corey Taylor II (411 yards, four TDs) and fellow sophomore Shamari Brooks (375, four TDs), but they are day-to-day with ankle injuries. Tulsa’s defense is ranked 15th in the nation against the pass (173.4 yards) and junior linebacker Cooper Edmiston (team-high three interceptions, 42 tackles) has led the way.
1. Tulsa senior WR Justin Hobbs leads the team with 19 receptions and has 156 for 2,322 yards in his career.
2. USF’s Josh Black leads the Bulls with four sacks and fellow senior LB Khalid McGee owns a team-high 45 tackles.
3. The Bulls have won both previous meetings, including 27-20 at home last season.
PREDICTION: USF 31, Tulsa 21