Towson football opens season at South Florida

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Towson (0-0) @ South Florida (0-0)

When: Saturday, 7 p.m.


Site: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla.

Video: ESPN3/American Sports Network

Radio: 1300 AM, TowsonTigers.com

Series: First meeting

What's at stake: It's a doozy of an opener for Towson and one that will test the mettle of its 18 returning starters. The Tigers (7-4 last year, 5-3 in the Colonial Athletic Association) take on a once-sorry South Florida bunch, which after three losing seasons in the American Athletic Conference has morphed into a power to be reckoned with. The Bulls have 15 starters back from a team that went 8-5, and after losses to both Maryland and Navy, won four of its last five games while averaging 47 points over its final four games. Towson, meanwhile, is anxious to give notice to prognosticators who picked the Tigers to finish sixth in their league.

Key matchup: Three of Towson's top four tacklers — all linebackers — return and hope to hound Quinton Flowers, South Florida's explosive dual-threat quarterback. That linebacker corps of Jordan Mynatt and Eric Handy (both out of Wilde Lake) and Chris Tedder, the 2015 CAA co-Defensive Rookie of the Year, will challenge Flowers, who ran and passed for 3,287 yards and 34 touchdowns last season while running South Florida's spread offense.

Player to watch: Towson has turned over the reins to quarterback Morgan Mahalak, a transfer from Oregon who sat for two years with the Ducks, who reached the national championship game in 2014. A redshirt sophomore, Mahalak was a four-star recruit in high school in California — the last time he took a game snap. He'll be steadied by senior Darius Victor, a punishing runner and Towson's No. 4 all-time ground gainer (2,955 yards), and two sure-handed receivers, returnees Andre Dessenberg and Christian Summers.