Friday’s football slate features plenty of exciting action. We’ve got our first Big Ten game between the Wisconsin Badgers and Illinois Fighting Illini. Illinois upset Wisconsin last season but can we expect the same outcome in 2020?
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Tulsa vs South Florida Friday, Oct 23 at 7:30pm EST, ESPN
We really don’t know how good Tulsa is.
I want to think Tulsa is good enough to be ranked. Their game against Cincinnati was postponed last week. I was really hoping that game played.
That was unfortunate.
Tulsa has been challenged early. They lost 16-7 to Oklahoma State and defeated UCF 34-26.
Both games were on the road and against ranked opponents. Both were actually ranked 11 when Tulsa faced them.
Tulsa was then about to take on the Bearcats, who were ranked 8th in the country but, again, that game was postponed.
Tulsa finally gets a lower tier opponent in South Florida. On paper, Tulsa should destroy.
Against two top level, ranked opponents, Tulsa is scoring 20.5 points per game and allowing 21 points per game. Tulsa plays tremendous defense and has allowed just 370 yards per game on defense against premier teams like Oklahoma State and UCF.
Tulsa will need to take care of the football offensively. They’ve really struggled on offense. Again, I’ll continue to use the same excuse that they’ve played against top tier teams.
Tulsa’s offense seems underwhelming but this team found a way to score 34 against UCF and outscore a very good offense to win the ball game.
Zach Smith is a senior leader and quarterback for the Golden Hurricane. He’s thrown four touchdowns and two interceptions in two games this season.
Against UCF, he threw for three touchdowns and one interception for 273 yards. He had a throw that went for 49 yards and had a quarterback rating of 164.9.
If you go back to 2019, Smith finished off the 2019 season with two games back-to-back with over 300 yards passing against Houston and Eastern Carolina.
He’s capable of making big plays. He had five games last season with over 300 yards passing.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Last season Tulsa won just three games. They’re not good.
If you watched them play this season, they’re a different team. This team can play defense and has grown on offense. That’s the reality.
South Florida has started the season 1-4. The only game USF won was against Citadel, 27-6.
South Florida lost to Notre Dame 52-0, Cincinnati 28-7, Eastern Carolina 44-24, and Temple 39-37.
39-37 seems like a close score. However, South Florida was leading near the end third quarter by double digits and lost.
USF is allowing 205.2 yards on the ground per game. Currently, we really don’t know how good this Tulsa run game can be. They gained 165 yards on the ground against UCF and averaged 3.8 yards per carry. Tulsa also gained 3.5 yards per carry against Oklahoma State in that first game.
Here’s the crazy part. Tulsa’s defense held Oklahoma State to 2.8 yards per carry with Chubba Hubbard the lead back for Oklahoma State.
That’s serious defense from Tulsa. Tulsa should win this game by multiple scores.
NCAAF Pick: Tulsa -9.5 (-134) via DraftKings
Illinois vs Wisconsin Friday, Oct 23 at 8:00pm EST, BTN
You will not find me making any wager on this game. This is the first Big Ten game of the season. There’s no data and literally nothing to go off of from this season.
With that said, we can predict and try our very best to know what might just happen in this game.
Or maybe not.
Do you remember last year? Wisconsin fans won’t want to. Illinois upset Wisconsin almost a year ago. Illinois has improved plenty following last year’s bowl game.
Illinois was crushed by California in late December but just seeing Illinois play in late December was a huge milestone for the program under Lovie Smith.
Reggie Corbin is no longer with Illinois. It’s now up to Jakari Norwood to lead this team in the ground. Brandon Peters returns at quarterback. Peters is a senior quarterback that threw for 18 touchdowns and eight interceptions last season for 1,884 yards.
Even in that Wisconsin game, he didn’t perform well. He went just 9=21 for 174 yards but threw for two scores without an interception.
Illinois will want to rely heavily on the ground game and hope their defense continues their solid campaign from 2019.
Wisconsin will no longer have their big offensive weapons. Jonathan Taylor is starting for the Colts and not the Badgers. He was really one of the best runners in college football last season.
Here’s the good news for Wisconsin though. They’ve always developed running backs to make it professionally. The list starts with James White and continues with Melvin Gordon along with Montee Ball. Taylor is already starting for the Colts.
Graham Mertz will get the start for Wisconsin at quarterback. He’s still a quarterback that appeared in just two games last season in blow out wins. He went 9-10 passing for 73 yards and that was that.
If he can protect the ball, the Badgers will be fine. It’s hard to put your money on a freshman quarterback, but Mertz was back-up to Jack Coan last season. He saw what it takes to reach a high level.
This game has revenge written all over it. Before last year, Wisconsin had defeated Illinois with double digit margins for over 10 years.
NCAAF Pick: Wisconsin -19.5 (-112) via DraftKings
Louisiana vs UAB Friday, Oct 23 at 8:00pm EST, CBSSN
This is a fantastic battle between the Sunbelt and Conference USA. UAB that has started the season 4-1.
On the other hand, Louisiana lost their first game of the season against Coastal Carolina last week in a 30-27 thriller.
Louisiana is no longer ranked. They really shouldn’t have been ranked from the start.
They’re led by quarterback Levi Lewis has thrown for five touchdowns and four interceptions. Last year was a bit better for Lewis as he threw for over 3,000 yards and completed a career high 64.3 percent of passes.
Now he’s averaging an interception per game in four games when he threw just four all of last season. The senior quarterback hasn’t even been sacked the last two games but something is getting tto him.
Louisiana had plenty of hype after their upset win against Iowa State in the first week of their season. They beat Iowa Statte handedly, 31-14.
Since then UL defeated Georgia State by three in overtime, beat Georgia Southern by two, and then lost to Coastal Carolina by three.
Louisiana averages 410 yards per game but they also give up 395 yards per game with nearly 200 of those yards on the ground.
Guess what? UAB runs for 186.8 yards per game this season and will likely reach that 200 mark.
UAB is led by freshman Bryson Lucero. He’s made many rookie mistakes this season after the injury to Tyler Johnston III, who was the former starting quarterback.
For those who don’t know, Johnston III is out indefinitely due to a shoulder injury to his non-throwing arm. It’s not promising that he’ll be back and ready for this game. Louisiana will prepare for both quarterbacks but Lucero will more than likely be the guy as there have been no updates that Johnston III is close to returning.
Since Lucero took over, UAB is 3-0 with wins against USA, 42-10, UTSA 21-13, and WKU, 37-14.
Lucero is going to make mistakes. He’s thrown four interceptions in his last two games. He’s also going to make solid plays. In his first start of the season, he threw for 319 yards. Since then it’s been a bit quieter for Lucero.
This is why they’ll run the ball more often especially knowing Louisiana isn’t great against the run on defense.
To conclude, UAB seems to have the better defense in this match-up. They’ve been great in the passing game, allowing just 154 yards passing per game.
Louisiana has played in tight games all season long outside their fluke win against Iowa State. UAB hasn’t lost at home since giving rebirth to their program. It hasn’t happened yet and it won’t happen now.
NCAAF Pick: UAB +3 (-110) via DraftKings