CSJ’s 2018 Week 3 Game Preview: South Florida vs. Illinois

South Florida vs. Illinois
Saturday, September 15, 2:30 PM CDT
Soldier Field, Chicago, Ill.
Big Ten Network / Big10Go

South Florida Bulls (2-0, 0-0 AAC) Week 2-W 49-38 vs. Georgia Tech

Trailing Georgia Tech, 38-28, 45 seconds into the fourth quarter, USF scored 21 unanswered points and forced two of its three turnovers gained on the day to post its sixth win in its last seven meetings against a Power 5 opponent.

The Bulls will play their first-ever game in Chicago and second in the state of Illinois on Saturday in the second of a two-game series with the Illini. The Bulls won the first meeting, 47-23, last year in Tampa.

USF last ventured to the state of Illinois in 2001, falling, 20-17, at Northern Illinois. It will mark USF’s fourth Big Ten road game in the last six seasons and fifth overall. The Bulls are 1-5 all-time vs. Big Ten opponents, that victory coming last year vs. Illinois.

Courtesy of Athlon Sports

Key Player: QB Blake Barnett off to great start as the junior is 8th in nation in points responsible for (8 TD), 21st in total offense (314.5 ypg). He is a graduate transfer from Arizona State and has been a very good replacement for three-year starting quarterback Quinton Flowers, a owner of 42 school records. Barnett thus far leads the Bulls with 117 rushing yards and has thrown overall for 512 yards and 5 scores.

Fantasy Bonus Baby: WR Tyre McCants had a career-best 10 catches & 3rd career 100-yard game (104) against Georgia Tech. His 19.1 yards per catch in 2017 led and very could have a huge game against Illinois.

Illinois Fighting Illini (2-0, 0-0 Big Ten) Week 2 – W 34-14 vs FCS Western Illinois

Illinois has scored more points in each of the first two games (31 vs. Kent State and 34 vs. Western Illinois) than in any game last season (2017 season-high was 24 points).

The game this week at Chicago’s Soldier Field (home of the NFL’s Chicago Bears) will be the fourth game at this venue for the Illini. Illinois previously played at Soldier Field in 1994 (10-9 loss to Washington State), 2013 (34-24 loss to Washington) and 2015 (24-14 loss to Northwestern).

Courtesy of Daily Illini

Key Player: LB Jake Hansen has had a monster start to 2018. Hansen ranks second in FBS in TFLs per game (3.0) and has a team-high 18 tackles in two games. He Earned Big Ten Co-Defensive Player of the Week honors after racking up 15 tackles and a school-record tying 6.0 TFLs in week one win over Kent State. He will need another monster performance in this game with the potent USF offense.

Fantasy Bonus Baby: RB Mike Epstein has had the play calling to him being cautious so far this year following last year’s foot fracture. But look for him to be big in this game as he likely is the Illini’s most dangerous offensive weapon. Epstein is averaging 8.6 yards per rush through two games but has just 17 touches through two games.

Fearless Forecast: Just like last year, the Bulls have more firepower than the Illini and despite this being in the state of Illinois, look for USF to move the ball well offensively against a young Illinois defense. Illinois’ offense does not have the same kind of talent offensively and while it might be able to keep it close in the first half, look for USF to pull away in the second half. USF 45, Illinois 27

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