TAMPA — In the COVID-19 climate, some segments of USF’s inaugural 2020 road trip demand a cautious approach. The Bulls will space themselves out on the buses bound for the airport, and observe a strict seating chart on the plane.
But Saturday afternoon inside Notre Dame Stadium, the initial bars of Wake Up the Echoes will serve as a cue for Jeff Scott’s players to cut loose.
And why wouldn’t they? USF (1-0) hasn’t been such a big underdog in any game in a half-decade.
“I want our guys to go out and play loose, play confident, play free, because where we are right now as a program, we’re playing with house money going into this game,” said Scott, whose team is a 26-point 'dog against the No. 7 Fighting Irish (1-0).
“We can let loose as coaches and players and have fun and see where it all lands at the end of the game.”
Oddsmakers haven’t favored a Bulls opponent so heavily since 2015, when FSU was listed as a 28.5-point favorite, according to Collin Sherwin of DraftKings Nation. If Saturday’s game closes at its current number, it will be the sixth-largest USF has faced as an underdog since it joined Division I-A as an independent in 2001.
The others: Oklahoma in 2002 (plus-30), Louisville in ’04 (plus-30), UCF in ’13 (plus-27) and Wisconsin in ’14 (plus-33). USF covered the spread in four of those five contests, but didn’t win any.
“There’s no pressure on us whatsoever,” Scott said.
“I know our players and coaches may put a little pressure on themselves because we all want to play well any time we step on the field. But when you’re a four-touchdown underdog (and) the goal of the game is for it to still be a game in the fourth quarter, all of that pressure moves to the other sideline.”