Written by Garin Turner
The USF Bulls (2-0) take on the University of Illinois (2-0) in Chicago 2:30 PM EST on the Big Ten Network. The Illini are looking to go 3-0 for the first time since the 2011 season. The Illini are one of the youngest teams in 2018. Only eight seniors are on the team. This game is the second meeting between the two teams with USF winning 47-23 last year.
The Illini lead the Big Ten and is ranked ninth nationally in turnover margin at +2.0 per game. Both teams have run the ball well in their first two games. USF has 186 yards a game while the Illini have 258.5. The Illini might be without their starting quarterback AJ Bush. Bush was injured last week in the Illini’s win against Western Illinois. If he can’t go, freshman QB M.J. Rivers will get the start. Rivers is 9/16 on the season with 105 yards and two touchdowns. “Some young players stepped up. Of course, M.J. Rivers came in and played well. He really stepped up and gave our team a chance to play the football game.,” Illini head coach Lovie Smith said.
Bush is one of the leading rushers for the Illini, so his versatility will be missed if he can’t go. Bush has 26 carries for 142 yards. Reggie Corbin has 25 carries for 142 yards and three scores. Mike Epstein has 16 carries for 138 yards and a score. “Mike Epstein played well on offense of the line of the football. Whenever you can run the ball it is pretty good. We did some good things on the offensive side,” Smith said. The Illini have gotten off to a slow start in both of their games but have turned up the intensity in the second half and finished games strong.
The Bulls are looking to feed off of a 21-point comeback victory against Georgia Tech 49-38. The Bulls seek their fifth straight win over a power 5 team. The Bulls have also won 10 out of its last 11 non-conference games. USF is averaging 41.5 points a game and 470.5 total yards. Both defenses are looking to get on track as they’ve both given up over 400 yards a game.
Blake Barnett has 507 yards passing with five touchdowns. He’s also the leading rusher for the Bulls with 24 carries for 122 yards and three touchdowns. He has three receivers with over 100 yards. Randall St. Felix (10 rec 166 yards 1 td), Tyre McCants (16 rec 125 yards 1 td) and Darnell Salomon (6 rec 114 yards 1 td) all look to give the Illini defense fits.