The Notre Dame Fighting Irish look to welcome final team added to the 2020 Notre Dame schedule, the South Florida Bulls, this Saturday for a 2:30 showdown on the USA Network. Across the land, articles, podcasts, and TV segments are being dedicated to that fateful day in 2011 when USF last came to town. I need not dredge up more memories of this game, as I was there and to relive it is an exercise in masochism.
I will say this...while I don’t want to say Notre Dame is going on a revenge tour this season...there are are certain components of this season which point to Brian Kelly setting off on a quest for vengeance.
The Bulls of South Florida
South Florida Roster Average Ranking
Let’s get this out of the way quickly — yes South Florida is the least talented team Notre Dame plays this season. They are a group of five squad, so it’s to be expected if we’re being honest. Just using Duke as a comparison, USF is less talented at every positional group than the Blue Devils. It certainly doesn’t help that last years recruiting class included just 15 players due in part to the departure of Charlie Strong, and Jeff Scott coaching Clemson throughout the playoffs.
I wish I could say that they had some kind of a dynamo player, but other than CB KJ Sails, who finished second team all AAC on defense last year, there really isn’t. Jordan McCloud returns as quarterback, though the position there is tenuous at best. UNC transfer Cade Fortin pushed him in the limited fall camp and may have beaten McCloud out for the job if not for Covid-19 limiting spring practice. They feature a trio of running backs, Kelley Joiner, Johnny Ford, Darrian Felix. The latter of which transferred from Oregon in December. To put them in perspective with Notre Dame, outside C’Bo Flemister (0.8456), no Notre Dame running back in the Brian Kelly era has had a lower composite rating than any of those three (Felix was the highest at 0.8579). Defensively...man. I think it’s best if we just not linger too long. As a unit, it’s about as bad, from a raw talent perspective, as imaginable. To that end, they allowed 7 touchdowns in a game, three times last year. Woof.
Only Alabama (91, longest in CFB history) has a longer streak of wins against unranked teams than Notre Dame’s 29 straight. This game should be decided at kickoff and yes, I remember Ball State, but so does the staff — right?
The return of Braden Lenzy finally gives Ian Book a real threat in the passing game but I fully expect the Irish to continue trying to establish running the ball. Liam Eichenberg spoke at length this week about the teams move toward a more dedicated zone blocking scheme and using the outside zone to get the speedy Kyren Williams and Chris Tyree on the perimeter.
On the defensive side, last weeks breakout star, Isaiah Foskey, provided the following quote:
“I’m going straight for the ball. If I get this sack, I get the sack, but I am trying to go for the ball and get a turnover and get us off the field.”
If that doesn’t do it for you, and get you hyped to see what havoc he will wreak — I’m not sure what will.
Big picture, the story-lines of this football game are about everything OTHER than what’s happening on the field. Charlie Weis Jr’s return. Revenge for the wild 2011 game. Jeff Scott doing advanced scouting for his former school, Clemson. The game being on USA Network...and speaking of which, man, the Notre Dame marketing department got real wild with this one.