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Manning Snyder breaks down The Citadel's matchup with South Florida.

By Manning Snyder

Overview
The Citadel Bulldogs and the South Florida Bulls open up their 2020 campaigns on Saturday evening in Tampa, Florida. The game will be televised on ESPNU at 7pm EST. First-year head coach Jeff Scott, previously the co-offensive coordinator at Clemson, faces off against sixth-year Citadel head coach Brent Thompson. Both the Bulls and the Bulldogs return an experienced team, yet the South Florida team, with the arrival of a new coach, have more unknowns than the triple-option Citadel squad. It is only the third meeting between the two schools, with USF and The Citadel tied 1-1 in the overall matchup. The expectations are high within the SoCon for the Bulldogs in 2020/21, who return eighteen starters (nine on offense and nine on defense). The South Florida team hopes to begin a winning season, putting the 2019 overall record of 4-8 in the rearview mirror.

Why To Watch
This matchup between an FCS and FBS school is intriguing for many reasons, yet two stick out. First, the Bulldogs are notorious as FBS-slashers, upsetting Georgia Tech last season and the University of South Carolina in 2015 (both games on the road). It will also be interesting to see how Coach Scott performs in his first game as the Bulls head coach.  One of the top rushing offenses in the NCAA (in the Bulldogs) will be facing off against the potentially high-scoring, high-tempo aerial attack (in the Bulls).  If the above reasons aren’t enough, just be happy that football is back. Enjoy the show.

The Citadel Players to Watch
QB Brandon Rainey
The senior quarterback is the leader of The Citadel’s triple-option offense.  Rainey accounted for 30 touchdowns last season, the most by a Bulldog quarterback in program history. More impressive than his stats, however, was his toughness and decision-making. The Acworth, Georgia, native played through multiple injuries last season and accounted for 30 touchdowns (17 rushing and 13 passing) last season.

LB Willie Eubanks III
The middle linebacker for The Citadel is arguably the best defensive player in the FCS. The 2019 SoCon Defensive Player of the Year is back for his senior season, and with high expectations. Eubanks is STATS Preseason All American and projected by Phil Steele Magazine to bring home the SoCon Defensive Player of the Year honors once again this season. The Augusta, Georgia, native recorded 112 tackles last season, and will headline a veteran defense returning nine starters.

USF Players To Watch
QB Jordan McCloud
The redshirt sophomore quarterback headlines the Bulls offense. Last season, McCloud started 10 games and accounted for nearly 2,000 total yards and 16 total touchdowns (rushing and passing). The hometown kid (Tampa, Florida, native) is looking to build off of last season, and with a new offensive-minded head coach in Scott, expect McCloud to put up better numbers this season.

LB Dwayne Boyles
The junior linebacker led the team in tackles and tackles for a loss in 2019. Boyles was arguably the most productive Bulls defensive player last year, starting every game but one. The Miami, Florida native will lead an experienced defense returning seven starters.

Keys To Game
Even with a new head coach, the Bulls are returning seventeen total starters from last season. They will likely have the pure skill edge over the Bulldogs, and they must utilize this athleticism to their advantage. Expect Coach Scott to incorporate the high flying, frequent-scoring offense he orchestrated at Clemson to Tampa. Although the Bulls are favored in this matchup, The Citadel has built a reputation around the South to put FBS foes on upset alert. In order for The Citadel to have a shot at win, the Bulldogs must limit their turnovers and burn the clock. The more first-downs the Bulldogs get, the more time ticks off the clock. Expect the Bulldogs to try and throw the ball a little more early to get the ground game established.

Manning’s Fun Facts
*Both USF and The Citadel both played Georgia Tech last season. The Bulldogs defeated the Yellow Jackets 27-24 in overtime, while the Bulls lost 14-10 to GT.

*Both USF and The Citadel have fantastic punters. For the Bulls, 30-year-old (yes, you read that right) Trent Schneider, averaged 46.0 yards per boot last season. For the Bulldogs, punter Matt Campbell averaged 44.1 yards per kick. Schneider was named to the Ray Guy Award Preseason Watch List (award given to college football’s most outstanding punter) and Campbell was named to the FCS Punter of the Year Watch List.

Conclusion
The anticipation of the game for both teams and fan bases has certainly been building. Coach Scott will look at this game as an opportunity to establish his credibility as a head coach, while the Bulldogs will be traveling to Florida with an upset on their minds. If South Florida is focused more on their Week 2 game at #10-ranked Notre Dame, they could be in some trouble. A positive showing by The Citadel will certainly bode well for the Bulldogs, who have a tough remaining schedule with matchups against Clemson and Army.