Tulsa scored one of the earliest upsets of the college football season back on Oct. 3 when the Golden Hurricane knocked off then-No. 11 UCF.
Since then, a bye and a postponement have left Tulsa eagerly awaiting a chance to build on its first win over an AP Top 25 team in a decade, and the chancefinally comes Friday night in Tampa against South Florida in an American Athletic Conference clash.
"We knew coming into this season that there were going to be some things that are going to be out of our control," Tulsa coach Philip Montgomery said. "We've already been dealing with that throughout the year. I know our guys are just anxious to get back on the field and have an opportunity to compete."
At first glance, USF (1-4, 0-3 AAC) would appear to be a perfect opponent for Tulsa (1-1, 1-0) to ease back into its conference schedule. The Bulls have lost four in a row and 18 of their past 23 games.
But South Florida is coming off its best offensive game despite losing 39-37 to Temple after failing on a 2-point conversion attempt with 1:03 remaining.
The Golden Hurricane, who lost their only other game against Oklahoma State (another ranked opponent), had their game last week against No. 9 Cincinnati postponed to Dec. 5 due to the Bearcats having several COVID-19 positive tests. Tulsa also had three other nonconference games canceled.
Senior running back Johnny Ford continues to be South Florida's most dangerous weapon with a team-best 265 yards rushing and three touchdowns as well as 126 yards and a touchdown on 14 receptions. Ford totaled 206 all-purpose yards against Temple, with 84 of those on kickoff returns.
South Florida quarterback Jordan McCloud threw three touchdown passes and completed 15 of 26 passes for 182 yards, but he lost three fumbles with the last of those resulting in the decisive score for Temple. Still, McCloud has a 64.3 completion percentage this season and has a deep core of receivers led by DeVontres Dukes, Latrell Williams and Omarion Dollison.
"We found a way to get ahead and unfortunately made some critical mistakes you cannot make in that type of close ball game and expect to win," South Florida coach Jeff Scott said after the game.
Defense has been the biggest issue for the Bulls, who are allowing 33.8 points and 205.2 rushing yards per game. Linebacker Antonio Grier Jr., one of their top defenders with 19 solo tackles and three sacks, was ejected for targeting in the third quarter against Temple.
Leading the Golden Hurricane is senior quarterback Zach Smith, who has completed 61.4 percent of his passes for 438 yards and four touchdowns, with two interceptions.
His top two targets have been senior Keylon Stokes (10 catches, 150 yards, 1 TD) and junior Josh Johnson (7 catches, 132 yards, 2 TDs). Tulsa's running game is powered by sophomores Deneric Prince and T.K. Wilkerson, who have split the workload in the early going.
Junior linebacker Zaven Collins leads Tulsa's defense with three sacks, an interception and 16 tackles.
--Field Level Media