Though they still would trail Pittsburgh, which is undefeated in league play, and surprising one-loss Syracuse in the standings, a win over Rutgers would have the Bulls at 2-2 and alone in third place.
It also would give them a shot at finishing over .500 in the conference for the first time in three years.
In between, they have a non-conference game at Miami.
Since finishing 4-3 in conference play in 2007, the Bulls have gone 2-5 and 3-4 in the Big East the last two years.
Overall, including their 1-2 start this year, they are 18-20 since beginning Big East play in the 2005 season. They were 8-8 in their two seasons in Conference USA.
--South Florida is approaching a program milestone. The Bulls will go into the game against Rutgers seeking the 100th victory in the program's history. The Bulls are 99-60 since they first started playing football in 1997. They have had only two losing seasons, including their first when they were 5-6. They were 4-7 in 2004.
--Don't expect a big offensive show when USF plays host to Rutgers. The two teams are seventh and eighth, respectively, in total offense in the Big East. The Bulls are averaging 323.7 ypg, the Scarlet Knights 299.6. Rutgers has done better in its two Big East games (Connecticut, Pittsburgh) in averaging 328.0 ypg. USF is averaging 266.3 in its three league outings (Syracuse, West Virginia, Cincinnati).
--Turnovers could be a big key in the game, and that doesn't augur well for the Bulls. Rutgers has a big edge at plus-seven in turnover ratio for the season to USF's minus-three.
SERIES HISTORY: Rutgers leads USF, 3-1 (last meeting, 2009, Rutgers 31-0).
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: After sputtering in losses to Syracuse and West Virginia, the Bulls offense came alive against Cincinnati. QB B.J. Daniels can be effective when he plays under control. He has 10 interceptions for the season but threw none against Cincinnati. Senior WR Dontavia Bogan is capable of big plays. The big key will be to get the running game going behind TBs Moise Plancher and Demetris Murray. The Bulls rushed for only 92 yards against the Bearcats.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: The defense gave up 512 yards in the win over Cincinnati but came up big on the final series with a key stop that preserved the win. For the season, the Bulls are giving up only 341.9 ypg and only 126.7 on the ground. The Bulls also have 21 sacks.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "They understand what they've got to get done and the way this football team has kind of owned us, especially the last two years." -- Coach Skip Holtz, talking about his players' approach to preparations for Rutgers, which has dominated the series with the Bulls.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Rutgers at USF, Nov. 3 -- The Bulls finish their run of weeknight games with the first of the three at home. Rutgers is 4-3 overall and 1-1 in the Big East. The Scarlet Knights have outscored the Bulls 80-16 the last two times the teams have played.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Avoid the key turnover. QB B.J. Daniels must duplicate his last performance in the win over Cincinnati and not throw interceptions to give the Knights cheap scores as he did late in the first half of losses to Florida and West Virginia. USF's defense has the chance to turn the game into a one-dimensional affair if it can keep an anemic Rutgers running game at bay.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
WR Dontavia Bogan -- Even before the injuries to starters Sterling Griffin and A.J. Love, Bogan was going to be "the guy" for the Bulls, and he has lived up to that responsibility. Despite missing a game with a bum ankle, Bogan leads the Bulls in receptions with 27 catches for 414 yards and two touchdowns.
RB Demetris Murray -- The rushing attack began to stagnate the two games he missed with a gimpy ankle. When he is available to share the workload, starter Moise Plancher becomes more productive. Murray has run for 274 yards in five games, Plancher 363 in seven.
CB Mistral Raymond -- Raymond was a busy man in the win over Cincinnati (a game-high 10 tackles, one interception and two breakups). For the season, he has 32 tackles and has broken up five other passes.
--DE Craig Marshall, who is the team's sack leader with a total of four among his eight tackles for losses, is out indefinitely with a toe injury that required surgery. Junior Patrick Hampton is scheduled to start in Marshall's spot, but redshirt freshman Ryne Giddens likely will see increased in the rotation.
--CB Mistral Raymond returned to practice after missing a day with a bruised quadriceps muscle.
--WR A.J. Love has yet to play this season after being injured in spring practice, and coach Skip Holtz said he and his staff have talked about holding Love out and applying for a medical redshirt year for him.