By Scott Baker
The USF Bulls (1-0) get ready for a talented Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (1-0) team this weekend at Raymond James Stadium. Saturday's game will be the first time that these two teams have met, but not the first time that Georgia Tech will play at Raymond James. In 2009, the Yellow Jackets played Clemson in the ACC conference championship. Georgia Tech won the game over the Tigers 39-34 but later had to vacate the win due to NCAA sanctions. USF is hoping to start this series with a win as the teams will meet this year as well as next year. But looking ahead to Saturday, this is how the game will break down.
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Georgia Tech got their season started in week one with a shutout victory over FCS Alcorn State 41-0. Georgia Tech using their triple option offense ran the ball for 439 yards in the opening game. In the running game, Georgia Tech had 12 different players with rushing attempts against Alcorn St. Through the air, Georgia Tech quarterback TaQuon Marshall had just 18 passing attempts and nine completions for 104 yards and one touchdown. Marshall, a senior, has just under 1,500 yards rushing in his career at Georgia Tech and has scored 19 touchdowns since wearing the uniform. Marshall in his junior year broke the school record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 1,146 yards in just 11 games which was also good for 12th overall in a single-season. His 17 touchdowns in 2017 on the ground are the third-most ever by a Georgia Tech quarterback in a single-season. Georgia Tech will look to use their ground game this weekend to defeat USF in Tampa. On the other side of the ball for the Georgia Tech, look for redshirt junior linebacker David Curry to take the lead. Curry was tied for the team-high with four tackles as well as having a fumble recovery that was returned for 15 yards. The Georgia Tech defense gave up just 146 yards of total offense a week ago, which is the fewest yards they have given up since surrendering 132 yards in a win over Duke in 2007. Nate Woody took over the defense this year after Ted Roof left and took the assistant head coach and defensive coordinator job at North Carolina State in the offseason. The Georgia Tech defense last year was 63rd overall in total defense under Roof. The team gave up 354.3 yards per game a season ago allowing the opposing offense to gain 5.5 yards per play. Georgia Tech also allowed teams to run around 64 plays per game. Georgia Tech gave up 200.6 yards through the air a season ago and 153.6 on the ground, allowing just one and a half touchdowns per game in both categories. Look for the Georgia Tech defense to try and stop the USF run.
Just like Georgia Tech, USF is coming off a win against an FCS opponent. USF was able to defeat Elon 34-14. USF is in their second year under Offensive Coordinator Sterling Gilbert. With the tools that Gilbert has on the offense this season, the team has already looked very different than a year ago. In the opening week against Elon, junior quarterback Blake Barnett lit up the Elon secondary, throwing for 305 yards for three touchdowns and carried the ball for 31 yards and a touchdown. The four touchdowns that Barnett accounted for is the most ever by a USF quarterback in their debut. Also impressive for USF on the offensive side of the ball was redshirt freshman Randall St. Felix who made seven catches for 143 yards and a touchdown, which put him as the best debut for a USF wide receiver, and already puts him into ninth in program history. On the defensive side of the ball, USF was able to suffocate the Elon offense in the first half, not allowing a score. Three USF players had ten or more tackles, with Jaymon Thomas and Khalid McGee leading the team with 11 tackles. Thomas also led the team with seven tackles for loss. The USF defense also racked up three sacks and 12 tackles for loss. The USF secondary left off where they were last season creating two interceptions on the day where they should have had three. The defense gave up a total of 234 yards to Elon, with 192 of those coming on the ground. USF against the Georgia Tech triple option should look to be tighter as a unit against the run this weekend if they want to stay competitive in the game.
USF and Georgia Tech will become familiar opponents after the game this week as the two teams are scheduled to play one another again in the 2019 season in Atlanta. Looking at Saturday's contest, it will be a close game that will be won at the line of scrimmage. If USF can score early and slow the Georgia Tech running game, it could be a long, hot afternoon for the Georgia Tech faithful. For Georgia Tech, if they can clog the passing lanes and force USF to run the ball, they could take the game with relative ease. Georgia Tech with their style of offense can keep the ball for long stretches of time and tire out the defense.
Tyler McConnell and Scott Baker will have the call on Bulls Radio starting at 11:45 a.m. with a pregame show from Raymond James Stadium.