USF 2022 Non-Conference Matchup Previews
On February 17th, USF released its football schedule for this upcoming season, including dates for the non-conference opponents. Non-conference opponents playing USF this year will be BYU, Howard, Florida, and Louisville. USF’s Non-Conference games could be determiners of how much the team has improved in the offseason. With these teams coming from different conferences there’s much more of an opportunity to see some different play styles in each game. That makes this a good time to look at the USF 2022 non-conference matchup previews.
Week 1 vs BYU
In week one USF has a returning foe who they played last year and actually hung in there with, in BYU. The Cougars played a sufficient first half of last year’s game but got lax in the second half. USF capitalized on this and made a huge comeback that fell short on the last drive of the game thus ending in a 35-27 loss.
Regardless, USF will look to start the season off on a good note considering it’ll be Travis Trickett’s first game running the offense. With how explosive BYU is, USF could be in for a whirlwind of a first game if they’re unable to slow down the Cougars’ pace. Interestingly enough, we could see a couple of different quarterbacks for USF. The Bulls have a big, but young quarterback room so there’s a lot of speculation about who will start.
Week 2 vs Howard
Coming out of the MEAC (Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) are the Howard Bison who will be to take on the Bulls. As Howard isn’t a very highly touted football program, USF will look to hopefully figure out what their offense’s identity truly is. Of course, you never want to count a team out, but Howard is coming off a rough 2021 season as they fell to 2-8 overall.
Considering Howard did keep about half of their games within 10 points, you can definitely see they are not shy to some tough competition. Howard is a very steady run and pass team, so USF will have to hope they can force Howard into 3rd & longs. If USF can create pressure on the edges, Quinton Williams (the returning senior quarterback for Howard) could make errand passes/stupid decisions. Howard might have had a bad season, but if USF can’t control the tempo on offense the score could be closer than people think. This could be a potential game to watch, depending on what USF team we get.
Week 3 @ Florida
Heading into week 3, USF will be hitting the road to Gainesville with a matchup against the always talented Gators. USF played Florida last season and you could see from the start that USF wasn’t prepared. With the loss of a couple of key players in Trey Dean and Dameon Pierce, USF can hope for a closer game this year. Regardless of how talented UF is on offense, USF will look to the deep ball against a very unstructured secondary.
Xavier Weaver, USF’s leading receiver in 2021, will play a key role if USF wants to beat UF through the air. Weaver last year averaged about 17.4 yards per catch. Considering how young he is that’s an insane number. Showing that USF will be relying on him to make some plays against this Florida team.
Considering UF is pretty hefty upfront, the run game will be hard to manage. This means Jaren Mangham will be less likely to get as many carries as he normally gets a game. Despite Mangham being explosive, he’s still a trench runner. This is why Brian Battie as well as Kelley Joiner will look to carry the load upfront. Since they’re faster backs there more likely to have success against a big front. Ultimately, this could be a close game in the first half but if USF can’t slow the UF offense down it could be a long day on the field for the USF defense.
Week 4 @ Louisville
Following the matchup against the Gators, USF will then head to Louisville, Kentucky to take on the Cardinals. A grave factor for USF will be containing Malik Cunningham. To say the least, Cunningham can really do it all. The USF defense might be on the field all day if Cunningham can find his rhythm.
Despite all the great talk about Cunningham, USF will look to sustain his run by forcing him to throw more. With the loss of Antonio Grier at LB for USF, Blake Green, USF’s second-leading sacker in 2021 will have to show up. As Louisville holds a young defensive core, USF will have to play just as good of an offensive game as they will defensively. USF’s offense will have to bring some fast paces attacks on their drives to hopefully sustain a big score.
Expectations going into Conference play following non-Conference play
Heading into conference play after week 4 expectations for the team’s play will be much different. Considering by then the starting quarterback decision should have already been made. The run game will have hopefully been established as well because USF truly lived on the run game last year. The defense should have an identity to them as to what kind of schemes to run against certain teams.
Conference games should show off the better version of the USF Bulls offense and defense. Since they’ll have 4 games to really figure out who they are and what players will play what positions. The coming season will hopefully shed light on future success for Jeff Scott and the Bulls.
Main Image courtesy USA Today Sports