Having turned things around in its last two games to get back into the conference race, USF plays Louisville in what looks to be a make-or-break game for both teams.
Both need Pittsburgh, which is 3-0 in the conference, to lose to have a shot at getting the league's BCS bowl bid, but with the Panthers still having five games remaining, including rivalry contests against West Virginia and Cincinnati, they still have a lot of work to do.
That adds a little incentive to the season's final weeks, incentive that didn't seem likely when the Bulls started off by losing their first two conference games to Syracuse and West Virginia.
"You look right now at this league and there is one team in this league still undefeated in Pitt," Coach Skip Holtz said. "Every other team mathematically still has a chance to win this conference.
"Every other team in this league has two losses and still has a chance to win it. So it's very uncommon late in this season that you've got every in the Big East talking about winning the Big East right now."
The Bulls face a big challenge in Louisville, which is coming alive in Charlie Strong's first season as head coach.
The Bulls have never beaten the Cardinals in Louisville, losing all three meetings. They have won all four meetings between the two in Tampa.
After the trip to Louisville, USF gets its next two Big East games at home against Pittsburgh and Connecticut. In between the Bulls go to Miami for their final non-conference game of the regular season.
--USF and Louisville look evenly matched when it comes to points-for and points-against. The Bulls are averaging 26.1 ppg on offense and holding opponents to 19.6 ppg. The Cardinals' figures are 26.8 and 18.9, respectively.
--The Bulls have won two of the last three meetings with the Cardinals, but both wins came at home (2007 and 2009). The Cardinals won in 2008 when the game was played at Louisville.
SERIES HISTORY: USF leads Louisville 4-3 (last meeting, 2009, 34-22 USF).
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: USF got its rushing game going again in the win over Rutgers, totaling 157 yards on the ground. That was the Bulls' first triple-digit effort since the win over Florida Atlantic. They had only 252 yards rushing in the previous three games combined. The key to success is QB B.J. Daniels. He has thrown nine interceptions in USF's three losses, only two in the five wins.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: USF has kept five of eight opponents under 100 yards rushing in a game and is giving up only 120.8 ypg rushing for the season. But the Bulls are one of the most generous teams in the Big East in pass defense, ranking seventh among the eight teams in surrendering 208.2 ypg. That's despite being tied for second in interceptions (eight) and tied for second in sacks (23).
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think right now the thing we're trying to really emphasize right now is the one-game season. We're trying to stay away from that circus mentality of if this, then this. We're trying to stay away from that because if we don't beat Louisville, then the if-this-then-this's don't matter." -- Coach Skip Holtz, asked if USF players were looking at all the scenarios in the Big East race.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: USF at Louisville, Nov. 13 -- Louisville is 5-4 and thinking bowl game after winning at Syracuse in its last outing. Both teams feature coaches in their first year in their present jobs -- Skip Holtz at USF and Charlie Strong at Louisville. They are tied for third in the Big East standings, each at 2-2.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Stop the run. Louisville leads the conference in rushing offense (193.3 ypg), but USF is giving up only 120.8 ypg. QB B.J. Daniels needs to remain patient and not try to force throws as that usually leads to costly interceptions.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
RB Moise Plancher -- The senior is coming off his career-best performance after rushing for 135 yards in USF's win over Rutgers. He also had 45 yards receiving. He leads the Bulls in rushing with 498 yards on 101 carries, nearly a 5-yards-per-carry average.
LB Sam Barrington -- Barrington is going to be the point man for a USF defense that is going to take on the challenge of stopping Louisville's running game. He leads the Bulls in tackles with 47 stops, three of them for losses.
WR Dontavia Bogan -- Bogan has big-play capability at receiver. He leads the Bulls with 29 catches for 432 yards despite missing one game because of injury.
--DE Craig Marshall remains out after having foot surgery. He is USF's sack leader with four.