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Why USF should pay attention to Birmingham this weekend

Our weekly college football gameday guide also explains why you shouldn’t overlook Florida-Kentucky.
USF fans should check out coach Bill Clark's Blazers this weekend for reasons that have nothing to do with wins and losses.
USF fans should check out coach Bill Clark's Blazers this weekend for reasons that have nothing to do with wins and losses. [ JOHN BAZEMORE | AP ]
Published Oct. 1

Alabama Birmingham’s days of playing at one of the worst stadiums in the country (Legion Field) are over. The Blazers will open the brand-new $200 million Protective Stadium this weekend against Liberty.

It isn’t a perfect match for what USF envisions — the 45,000-seat Birmingham stadium is about two miles off campus, not on it — but Bulls fans should still check out the facility and environment created by another mid-major program with higher aspirations.

Related: USF ‘going to’ build on-campus football stadium, board of trustees chair says

USF template at SMU?

SMU is 4-0 and near the top 25 thanks in part to the transfer portal. Four starters (including dynamic receiver Reggie Roberson) are Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex natives who signed at other Division I-A programs before transferring home.

Seven other players on the two-deep are Metroplex natives who transferred to SMU from four-year schools or junior colleges. That doesn’t include quarterback Tanner Mordecai, a Waco native and former Sooner who leads the nation with 20 passing touchdowns. If the Mustangs can build their successful roster with talented transfers looking to return home, USF can, too.

Related: This crazy college football season would be even crazier with a 12-team playoff

Don’t overlook Kentucky

Kyle Trask had his coming-out party against Kentucky in 2019.
Kyle Trask had his coming-out party against Kentucky in 2019. [ TIMOTHY D. EASLEY | AP ]

If the Gators’ trip to Kroger Field is anything like the last three, Florida will be in for a tough contest.

2019: UF trailed 21-10 late in the third quarter when Feleipe Franks went down with a season-ending ankle injury. Kyle Trask (now a Bucs rookie) came off the bench and rallied UF to a 29-21 triumph that kickstarted his historic career.

2017: Kentucky left Tyrie Cleveland and Freddie Swain completely unguarded, leading to two UF touchdowns and a 28-27 Gators win.

2015: UF passed for zero yards in the first quarter before eking out an ugly 14-9 triumph.

Related: Florida QB Emory Jones excited for Anthony Richardson’s return

3 things to know about UCF’s new QB

UCF quarterback Mikey Keene is expected to start in place of the injured Dillon Gabriel.
UCF quarterback Mikey Keene is expected to start in place of the injured Dillon Gabriel.

With Dillon Gabriel (broken clavicle) out, freshman Mikey Keene is expected to earn his first career start at Navy:

1. He comes from a football factory. Chandler (Ariz.) High has produced NFL quarterbacks Brett Hundley (Colts) and Bryce Perkins (Rams), plus first-round picks Cameron Jordan (Saints) and N’Keal Harry (Patriots).

2. He won a lot in high school. In two years as a starter, Keene went 23-0 and won a pair of state titles.

3. He fits the mold of recent UCF quarterbacks. Like Gabriel and McKenzie Milton, Keene is undersized (5-feet-11, 180 pounds) but productive. His fourth college pass was a 30-yard touchdown on fourth down against Bethune-Cookman.

Related: Has FSU football coach Mike Norvell done what he promised on Day 1?

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