NCAAF PREVIEWS |

South Florida Bulls vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish Preview and Predictions 09-19-2020

A 2020 season rife with unprecedented moments adds another on Saturday when No. 7-ranked Notre Dame hosts South Florida in South Bend, Ind.

For the Fighting Irish (1-0), Saturday marks their sole non-conference game of the 2020 slate. That on its own is historic, as the longtime independent Notre Dame program is playing this season as a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

The Irish won their ACC debut against Duke on Saturday, 27-13, for the 909th victory in their history. Despite ranking among the winningest programs of all time, however, they have never beaten USF.

The Bulls (1-0) won the only previous meeting between the two, 23-20, on Sept. 3, 2011 in the rain-soaked season opener of Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly's second season at the helm.

Kelly remains at Notre Dame in 2020, but USF has undergone multiple facelifts in the last nine years. The most recent was the hire of Jeff Scott to replace Charlie Strong, who was fired after a 4-8 finish in 2019.

USF's 27-6 win in Scott's debut last week against The Citadel included a 0-yard punt-return touchdown when Omarion Dollison caught a botched kick in the end zone. The special-teams score gave the Bulls some breathing room before halftime after having mustered only a Jordan McCloud touchdown pass to DeVontres Dukes on their first three possessions.

McCloud was one of three quarterbacks to play in the opener, which Scott said he expects to continue doing until the start of American Athletic Conference play.

The Bulls offense added two touchdown runs, one each from Kelley Joiner and Noah Johnson, to cap a 302-yard rushing game.

The Bulls' success on the ground came in spite of a heavily depleted offensive line.

"Up until last week, we really felt like we were going to have four returning starters on the offensive line," Scott said Monday on his weekly radio show. "After some things had happened, we ended up going into the game with four new starters. That was definitely a challenge."

Scott added that "with COVID, you need as many linemen as you can possibly have."

Kelly praised the USF front five as "big and physical," despite the absences, which include Brad Cecil and Demetris Harris. Both are questionable for Saturday's contest.

"We expect those guys are going to be back, and if they are, they're going to be one of the bigger offensive lines we face this year," Kelly said.

For its part, the Notre Dame defense is coming off an outstanding showing against the run in its season opener. The Irish held Duke to just 73 yards on 30 carries. Defensive linemen Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah and Kurt Hinish helped set the tone, each recording two tackles for loss and a sack.

Notre Dame also generated two turnovers, including a fumble forced by Owusu-Koramoah.

Takeaways may again play a central role Saturday. The USF defense forced three last week, including a Mekhi LaPointe interception.

"We're only one week in, but we're tied for No. 1 in the country at plus-three in turnovers," Scott said. "That's where we want to be."

Generating turnovers proved historically successful for USF: The Bulls forced five and gave away none in their win at Notre Dame nine years ago.

The Irish committed one turnover against Duke, an Ian Book interception. That was a minor blemish on an afternoon in which Kyren Williams dazzled with 112 rushing yards and two touchdowns, plus another 93 yards on two receptions.

--Field Level Media

Prediction

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Stadium

Notre Dame Stadium
South Bend, Indiana, USA.
Capacity: 80,795

Last Injuries

Notre Dame Fighting Irish

  • Shayne Simon

    Knee
    day-to-day | questionable

    Simon has a knee injury and did not play in the previous game. It is unclear if he will be good to go versus Wake Forest on Sept. 26.

  • Jahmir Smith

    Undisclosed
    day-to-day | questionable

    Smith sat out the last game with an undetermined injury, and it is unclear if he will line up against Wake Forest on Sept. 26.

  • Ben Skowronek

    Hamstring
    day-to-day | questionable

    Skowronek missed the last game with a hamstring injury, and his availability for Sept. 26 against Wake Forest remains hazy.

  • Kevin Austin Jr.

    Foot
    day-to-day | questionable

    Austin Jr. has missed the previous two games due to a foot injury, and it is unclear if he will be available for Sept. 26 against Wake Forest.

  • Lawrence Keys III

    Undisclosed
    day-to-day | questionable

    Keys III missed the last game due to an unspecified ailment, and it has yet to be determined if he will face Wake Forest on Sept. 26.

  • TaRiq Bracy

    Undisclosed
    day-to-day | questionable

    Bracy missed the last game due to an undetermined ailment, and it is unknown if he will partake in the clash against Wake Forest on Sept. 26.

  • Brendon Clark

    Undisclosed
    day-to-day | questionable

    Clark sat out the last game due to an unspecified injury, and it has yet to be established if he will play Sept. 26 versus Wake Forest.

  • Ovie Oghoufo

    Undisclosed
    day-to-day | questionable

    Oghoufo has an undetermined injury and did not play in the previous game. His status for Sept. 26 against Wake Forest is up in the air.

South Florida Bulls

  • Demetris Harris

    Undisclosed
    day-to-day | questionable

    Harris has been absent from the lineup during the previous two games with an injury to an unannounced area, and it is uncertain if he will be available for Sept. 26 against Florida Atlantic.

  • Keyon Helton

    Undisclosed
    day-to-day | questionable

    Helton has sat out the previous two games with an undefined injury, and it is unknown if it will impede his status for Sept. 26 versus Florida Atlantic.

  • Jared Sackett

    Undisclosed
    day-to-day | questionable

    Sackett has missed the last two games due to an unspecified reason, and it is unclear if he will play Sept. 26 against Florida Atlantic.

  • Darrian Felix

    Hamstring
    day-to-day | questionable

    Felix missed the last game with a tight hamstring, and it remains to be seen if he will be in the lineup Sept. 26 versus Florida Atlantic.

  • Cade Fortin

    Undisclosed
    day-to-day | questionable

    Fortin has sat out the previous two games due to an unannounced injury, and it has yet to be established if he will take the field against Florida Atlantic on Sept. 26.

  • Brad Cecil

    Undisclosed
    day-to-day | questionable

    Cecil has missed the previous two games due to an unknown injury, and it is undetermined if he will be active against Florida Atlantic on Sept. 26.

  • Kevin Kegler

    Undisclosed
    Ques Sat | questionable

    Kegler was held out of the last game due to an injury to an unlisted location, and it is uncertain if he will suit up against Notre Dame on Saturday.

  • Demaurez Bellamy

    Undisclosed
    Out Sat | out

    Bellamy is managing an unknown injury, and will not be available for Saturday's matchup with The Citadel.