BCI Fearless Predictions South Florida

The South Florida Bulls remember the last time they played Cincinnati and will look to return the favor when the two teams meet in the sunshine of Tampa early in November.

Game 9: November 3-rd vs. South Florida at Raymond James Stadium, Tampa Fl.

 

The Big East media has picked USF to finish forth in the conference in 2007 just ahead of UC. They are nearly everyone's dark horse to sneak into the upper echelon of the conference. Considering the Bulls program was founded in 1996 that is a pretty impressive accomplishment. UC and USF have split the last 4 meetings, each time the home team has won. This game is a must win for both programs if they hope to climb to the top of the Big East.

 

The architect of the South Florida program in head coach Jim Leavitt, he has been there since the beginning taking the job in 1995. Leavitt started his program from scratch and led them into 1A status in 2001. During his 10 season, the Bulls starting playing in 97, they have had only 2 losing season of those was the first. With an overall winning percentage of .619 it doesn't take long to see why so many are high on USF.

 

A big part of the attention that USF gets is they have gotten it done on the field in big games; 2 years ago the Bulls blew out Louisville. Last season they went to Morgantown and beat the Mountaineers. One thing that seems to get overlooked is that while USF has won some big games they also have lost a few that you would expect them to win. Two seasons ago they went on the road at UConn and only scored 10 points in a loss. Last year a similar experience happened at Kansas when they only scored 7 is a loosing effort.

 

USF return 16 starters, 8 each on offense and defense. Starting quarterback Matt Grothe returns for his sophomore year after playing all 13 in 2006. In his inaugural season Grothe completed 63.7% of his passes averaging 198.2 yards per game thru the air and passing for 15 touchdowns. Grothe also gets it done with his legs accumulating 622 yards on the ground.

 

The challenge on offense, which is a 3 receiver set, will be replacing two starting wide receivers and the tight end. Even with the departures, two of the top 4 receivers return with senior Amarri Jackson (26 catches in 06) and Taurus Johnson (37 catches in 06). In the back field junior Benjamin Williams returns as the leading rusher, his yards per carry were 3.6 while catching 6 passes. On the O-line in 2006 it was a revolving door to find a unit that could get the job done, not until the final 3 games were they able to get a unit that could perform. That unit returns with a full off season of work and should be improved.

 

Defense is the hallmark of the South Florida program, last year they gave up an average of only 17 points per game and only U of L scored more than 30. The Bearcats had 23 for the second most points given up, pretty impressive numbers and with 8 starters back look for more in 2007. The key to the Bulls defense is linebacker play; USF had a great trio in 2006 but will have to replace both outside starting linebackers for 2007. In the middle Ben Moffit does return, last season Ben led the Bulls in tackles and probably should have been on the All Big East team. It's probably not reasonable to expect the same production this season but will USF will be strong on the defensive side of the ball.

 

Why UC will win this game?

 

Doug Goodwin: These two programs a very similar, they both play the great defense and employ the spread offense. The difference though is the offense, the Jim Leavitt version while effective hasn't necessarily meant high scoring much like the Rick Minter version a few years ago at UC. Brian Kelly is known for scoring and doing so in bunches, by November his offense will be in full gear and should lead Cincinnati to victory.

 

Also, in 2 of the last 3 meeting USF has scored 23 points or less, both UC wins. The 2005 game did see the Bulls put up 31, but recall that UC squad was the second youngest team in D1 and those players are juniors now.

 

Dave Berk: Gone is the home field weather advantage the Bearcats held last season.  From the time the Bulls took the field you could see in their faces they didn't want to be on the field.  The results saw the Bearcats earn a victory and feet they must repeat if they want to get ahead of the Bulls for a bowl berth.

 

But while the weather helped the Bearcats last season it'll also help them this year as Coach Longo and the team will enjoy the warm sunshine in Tampa and be ready to apply the pressure on the Bulls offense to keep them off base.  Stop the running game and force Matt Grothe to make choices when he's not ready will key a Bearcats victory along with the Bearcats being ready for the chance in weather.  No cramping allowed on this trip...

 

What does USF have to do to win?

 

Doug Goodwin: Both teams have excellent defenses, USF needs to show they can score and put more than 30 points on the board. They are capable of doing it as witnessed in 2005 by scoring 45 against both U of L and Rutgers. The more puzzling fact is that 5 times over the past 2 season USF has failed to score more than 10 in a game.

 

Dave Berk: Matt Grothe must control the tempo of the game and keep his defense off the field as Brian Kelly will look to use his high octane offense to run down the Bulls.  If the Bulls can establish a running game and give Grothe time to work his magic they'll win this installment and take a step closer to a bowl berth at season's end.

 

Doug's Prediction: Too much Bearcat defense, UC 28 – 21

 

Dave's Prediction: The Bearcats are the surprise team in 07 and win 30-28.

 

Bonus for Game 9

 

Doug Goodwin: USF has knack for upsetting someone every year, they will have already played West Virginia and Rutgers. This game very well could determine which of these programs joins the big boys at the top of the conference ladder.

 

Dave Berk: As Doug says, USF will have already played the Mountaineers and Scarlet Knights before taking on the Bearcats.  But the two Big East games are not the ones that will determine just were this program is in 2007.  In week two the Bulls must travel to Auburn and then host North Carolina and West Virginia back-to-back games.  Does Grothe suffer from a sophomore slump?  If he does the Bulls will be looking at the other end of the conference standings come November.


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