BGI Staff Predictions: Notre Dame Vs. South Florida
After opening the 2020 football campaign with a 27-13 victory at home last weekend versus Duke, the No. 7-ranked Fighting Irish will play their lone non-conference — it still feels odd to write that — contest this season on Saturday afternoon when it hosts the University of South Florida.
The telecast begins at 2:30 p.m. ET on USA Today Network, with NBC this week covering golf’s U.S. Open, which in the past was held in June.
USF leads this series 1-0 after stunning the Irish 23-20 in the 2011 opener with head coach Skip Holtz. The Bulls are one of five current Football Bowl Subdivision teams that have defeated Notre Dame and not lost to them, joining UConn, Georgia, Oregon State and Tulsa.
The likelihood of a repeat win by the Bulls is slim with the Fighting Irish installed as a 25.5-point favorite.
TODD BURLAGE, STAFF COLUMNIST
Notre Dame 32, USF 3
If this were the South Florida program from three and four seasons ago — the one that went 21-4 in 2016 and 2017 and finished in the final AP top 25 both seasons — this game would be much more interesting.
Instead, the Bulls’ program backslid mightily the last two seasons, going 7-6 in 2018 and 4-8 last year. South Florida is projected to finish 10th this year in the 11-member American Athletic Conference.
Notre Dame, meanwhile, thrives at home versus unranked opponents, with its last loss coming to Virginia Tech in 2016 during the miserable 4-8 campaign.
PATRICK ENGEL, BEAT WRITER/ANALYST
Notre Dame 42, USF 10
USF’s coaching infrastructure is intriguing with longtime Dabo Swinney assistant Jeff Scott as head coach and 27-year-old Charlie Weis Jr. as offensive coordinator, the youngest in the FBS (with Notre Dame’s Tommy Rees right behind at 28).
Yet they’re not going to make a moribund offense explosive in short order. Last week the Bulls averaged a meager 4.1 yards per pass against an FCS opponent (The Citadel), hinting at a lack of big-play ability through the air. They should run the ball well enough to find the end zone once, but not nearly enough to keep pace with even a still-progressing Notre Dame offense.
ANDREW MENTOCK, STAFF WRITER
Notre Dame 45, USF 17
While I expect new South Florida head coach Jeff Scott to turn the program around after a 4-8 season in 2019, I’d be shocked if the Bulls were ready to be competitive with Notre Dame. Unlike last week, the Fighting Irish will get up early in this game and play several reserve plates and freshmen, which will afford USF the opportunity to put some points on the board in the second half.
MIKE SINGER, RECRUITING INSIDER
Notre Dame 42, USF 16
USF shouldn’t have any advantages in terms of personnel when it steps on the field Saturday. The weather conditions should be the opposite of the dreadful 2011 matchup between the Irish and Bulls. Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly has been exceptional at getting his teams focused in these type of contests after enduring numerous slip-ups earlier in his career.
There is no doubt that Notre Dame is the more talented team. This Saturday will be all about working out the kinks we saw offensively against Duke and not making the numerous mental or physical errors that often occur in an opener such as last week. Notre Dame is more than a three touchdown favorite against USF, and I like the Irish to cover.
LOU SOMOGYI, SENIOR EDITOR
Notre Dame 38, USF 10
Last year in the “automatic win” for game 2, Notre Dame steamrolled New Mexico 66-14 to easily cover the 34.5-point spread.
Two years ago in the “automatic win” for game 2, Notre Dame bumbled and scuffled along before posting a 24-16 victory versus 33.5-point underdog Ball State.
The Fighting Irish aren’t as heavy favorites this year in game 2 versus South Florida, and I expect this game to fall somewhere in between the surprising competition from Ball State and the toying around with New Mexico.
USF possesses an exciting and somewhat diminutive backfield tandem with 5-9 Kelley Joiner Jr. and the 5-5 Johnny Ford, but with the status of three starting offensive line uncertain and a passing attack that was limited against The Citadel while scoring only 20 points on offense, the Irish should not be in for any scares like last week.
• Learn more about our print and digital publication, Blue & Gold Illustrated.
• Watch our videos and subscribe to our YouTube channel
• Sign up for Blue & Gold's news alerts and daily newsletter
• Subscribe to our podcast on iTunes
• Like us on Facebook.