Behind Enemy Lines: USF

In this edition of Behind Enemy Lines, lead writer Brendan Sonnone grills publisher Josh Newberg about this Saturday's matchup between the Knights and Bulls.

Brendan Sonnone: After last year's lopsided victory and with Kansas next on the schedule, is there a chance USF can overlook UCF, or at least not give them warranted respect?

Josh Newberg: I don't think they are overlooking UCF, Coach Leavitt would not allow it. Coach Leavitt didn't let the team overlook Tennessee Martin! However, there is always a chance they could come out flat and if UCF jumps out to a lead at home with a rowdy crowd, anything is possible.

BS: Is this game a rivalry, or is it not one until UCF wins a game?

JN: There's no doubt that it's not a true rivalry until the teams have a little back-and-forth in the win column. Right now it's only a rivalry to one team, if UCF beats them and they don't play for another 5-10 years I'm sure the next meeting would have more of a rivalry feel, but right now it is not a rivalry based on wins.

BS: What's the best way to slow down George Selvie?

JN: Create a new position and add a second left tackle – that's the best I can come up with. Seriously, the best way to stop him is to make him use a second move besides the speed rush. Easier said than done of course because every one of his moves is based on speed and just when opposing tackles overcompensate to the outside he'll throw a swim move and have an open lane to the QB. UCF will be forced to use double teams and chip with the back out of the backfield. Only problem is, this will free up the other defensive linemen to make plays. Pick your poison.

BS: How will USF's secondary be this year after losing several key starters?

JN: Although they lost two corners, the secondary is anchored by junior safety Nate Allen. On the corners you have two guys that saw a lot of time last year in Tyller Roberts and Jerome Murphy. Murphy is expected to build on a stellar season last year and could be an even bigger play-maker than Trae Williams or Mike Jenkins were.

BS: How big of a disadvantage will playing at Bright House Networks Stadium be for USF?

JN: The Bulls have shown they can win on the road. They've never lost to UCF on the road and even more impressive was their win two years ago at West Virginia. Not only won't it be a disadvantage, but the crowd noise will probably prevent them from coming out flat.

BS: If the field is wet or there is heavy rain during the game, is that a disadvantage or advantage for USF?

JN: The Bulls have three backs that all like to pound it up the middle – Mike Ford, Jamar Taylor and Ben Williams would love an old-fashioned mud game. It would obviously hurt the passing game, but it will take more than just rain to slow down this offense.

BS: How have teams had success in stopping Matt Grothe in the past?

JN: You have to make Matt one-dimensional. Either don't let him beat you on the ground or don't let him do it through the air. Once he gets the passing game going, that's when you see him break-off 15-20 yard runs that demoralize opposing defenses. Just when they think they got him on a third and long, he has one of those highlight scrambles to move the chains.

BS: Why has USF opted not to continue this series?

JN: I can't answer that. To me it doesn't make sense, but I'm not a USF alum nor did I follow this team before I started covering the Bulls. USF fans and staff feel like this is the time to end it and that's all that matters. Personally, I think they should play every year, I like the heated rivalry that has turned into an obsession for fans on both sides. I'm disappointed to see it end in '08.

BS: If USF loses on Saturday, does their regional prestige take a hit?

JN: I think their pride will take a hit, but in the big picture it will be a minor speed bump. The Big East is still theirs for the taking and that is the main focus. An out-of-conference loss to a non-BCS team will sting, but it won't make or break their season. If they take care of business within their conference, win or lose to UCF, the Bulls will be in the hunt for a BCS berth.

BS: What will UCF have to do in order to upset the nationally-ranked Bulls?

JN: Slow them down early is key. USF is still a young team and if they get out of rhythm early the Knights can use home field advantage to keep USF from getting back in the game. Make USF kick field goals. Delbert Alvarado has not been consistent for USF and even though they were able to overcome his misses at Auburn, eventually it will come back to bite them. Lastly, slow down George Selvie. Even when he isn't getting the sack, his mere presence on the field is enough to rattle quarterbacks.

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