The 2019 season kicks off a day prior to the first full Saturday slate for South Florida and Wisconsin as the Badgers travel down to Tampa to take on the Bulls in a Friday night primetime game. The game will mark the first time Wisconsin has started a season with a true road game since it opened the 2010 campaign with a 41-21 win over UNLV in Las Vegas. The Badgers did open the 2014, 2015 and 2016 seasons with neutral site games, but the 2016 contest was in Green Bay, a 16-14 win over LSU.
It is not the first time Wisconsin and South Florida will have met, however. The two teams played one another in the 2014 season, with Wisconsin beating the Bulls 27-10 in Madison.
Wisconsin: Wisconsin announced earlier this week that Jack Coan, who beat out highly-touted incoming freshman Graham Mertz, will be starting at quarterback. Coan played in five games for the Badgers last season, throwing for 515 yards, five touchdowns and three interceptions. Of course, whether it had been Coan or Mertz, either Wisconsin QB would be better off giving the ball to Jonathan Taylor as often as possible. The star Wisconsin running back rushed for 2,194 yards last season, and has rushed for at least 100 yards in 22 of his 27 career games. He enters the season with 4,171 rushing yards in his career, which means if he can reach the 1,829-yard mark in 2019, he’ll become only the seventh player in college football history to rush for at least 6,000 yards in their career.
South Florida: The 2018 season was like two different years for the Bulls. They started out the season 7-0, picking up wins against Power Five opponents Georgia Tech and Illinois. The start landed them in the top 25 of the AP poll, but the Bulls then lost to Houston 57-36 and followed that with five consecutive losses, finishing the year 7-6 after losing to Marshall in the Gasparilla Bowl. Needless to say, the Bulls, now in their third season under Charlie Strong, will be looking to improve upon last year’s late slide.
Date: Friday, Aug. 30 | Time: 7 p.m. ET
Location: Raymond James Stadium — Tampa, Florida
TV: ESPN | Live stream: WatchESPN.com
Game prediction, picks
I’m not sure South Florida’s going to be able to pull off the outright upset, but getting nearly two touchdowns at home, it’s hard to pass up the Bulls in a season opener. Wisconsin should be bigger, and a South Florida defense that allowed 5.12 yards per carry last season will have its hands full with Taylor, but the Bulls offense should score enough to keep them within range of this spread. Pick: South Florida (+13.5)
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