Inside Slant: USF vs. Miami

Both USF and Miami are coming off disappointing losses that basically eliminated their hopes of winning a conference title. Now both the Bulls and the Hurricanes will try to regroup when they meet for this in-state battle Saturday in Miami. The Sports Xchange gives their skinny on the USF - Miami match-up, what to look for, keys to victory, and more

Miami is coming off a disappointing loss that eliminated the Hurricanes' hopes of winning a conference title.

Sounds a lot like a description of South Florida.

Both the Bulls and the Hurricanes will be trying to regroup when they clash Saturday in Miami.

The Bulls' Big East loss to Pittsburgh didn't officially eliminate them from emerging with a share of the conference title, but for all practical matters it did.

The list of conditions needed for the Bulls to finish in a first-place time are improbable, to say the least.

Miami, however, already has seen its conference hopes vanish with its loss to Virginia Tech in its last outing. The Hokies clinched a berth in the ACC championship game.

So call the USF-Miami game the Disappointment Bowl.

"These were games where two teams had an opportunity to compete for a conference and divisional title last week," South Florida coach Skip Holtz said. "Neither one of us were able to get it done. Now we both have to come back and kind of rally the troops and come back and play again.

"I know Miami has a lot to play for, being Senior Day and all those type of things. I'm sure they'll be emotional, they'll be ready, and they'll be excited to play, and I think this team will be."

Despite the advantages Holtz sees in Miami's favor, it could be the Bulls who have the mental edge. They are trying to make it a "Big Four" in the state of Florida as far as college football, and they need a win over Miami to make that case.

Earlier this year, the Bulls lost at Florida, but they beat Florida State last year.

"This is one of those geographical rivalry games where the players are going to be texting back and forth, very similar to when we played Florida," Holtz said. "Some of these guys played with each other, against each other, on all-star teams together.

"It's going to be an emotional game, but I think these players are resilient. They'll be ready to go."

USF will have one more game after the non-conference affair at Miami. The Bulls finish at home Dec. 4 against Connecticut.

NOTES, QUOTES

--A win over Miami would assure USF of a better-than-.500 record for the fourth consecutive season. The Bulls went 6-6 in 2005 and 4-7 in 2004.

--Miami has outscored USF 58-17 in the two meetings between the teams.

--USF is looking to finish with a winning record on the road when it visits Miami. The Bulls have lost to Florida and West Virginia on the road but have beaten Cincinnati and Louisville. The Bulls were 3-3 on the road last year and 4-3 in 2008.

SERIES HISTORY: Miami leads USF 2-0 (last meeting, 2009, Miami 31-10).

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: When QB B.J. Daniels is patient and on his game, the Bulls can be a very efficient team on offense. Except for Dontavia Bogan, they lack playmakers in the receiver corps, and that has made them inconsistent. The Bulls are passing for only 159.6 yards per game while rushing for 152.0.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: USF has performed well on defense, allowing only 321.8 yards per game. The Bulls are allowing only a stingy 186.3 yards per game passing but have only 10 interceptions. They have 27 sacks, however, led by SS Jon Lejiste and LB Sabbath Joseph with three each. They could have another of their sack leaders, DE Craig Marshall, back in the lineup against the Hurricanes after he missed three games due to a foot injury.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We get back into one of these games that give us an opportunity to really make a splash outside the conference with having the opportunity to play a team like Miami, and all the history and reputation that they have." -- Coach Skip Holtz, on USF's trip to Miami.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAME: USF at Miami, Nov. 27 -- The Bulls can make up for the loss to Pittsburgh by notching a second win over one of the state's traditional "Big Three" of college football. They got Florida State last year but came up empty at Florida earlier this season. Miami isn't the Miami of old, but that won't make any difference.

KEYS TO THE GAME: Get production out of the wide receivers. The receiving corps has been suspect all year and needs to come through to take some of the pressure off QB B.J. Daniels. The Bulls must slow a Miami running game that has been on a roll in recent outings.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

WR Dontavia Bogan -- Bogan is USF's top receiver with 36 catches for 344 yards. He has the ability to make the big play and also to draw flags for pass interference from opposing cornerbacks. He did that four times against Pittsburgh in his last game.

KR Lindsey Lamar -- Lamar has run back two kickoffs for touchdowns and is averaging 29.3 yards on 22 returns. He had a long return against Pitt called back because of a penalty. He faces a challenge in Miami's kick coverage team.

LB Jacquian Williams -- Williams leads the Bulls in tackles with 54 stops, 2.5 of them sacks. He and Sabbath Joseph face a challenge in stopping Miami's running game.

ROSTER REPORT:

--RB Moise Plancher has a banged-up shoulder that limited his play in the loss to Pittsburgh, but he is expected to be available for the game at Miami.

--DE Craig Marshall, who has missed the last three games with a foot injury, is back running and could play against Miami.

--DE Patrick Hampton, who took over when Marshall was hurt, now himself is considered questionable for the Miami game with an undisclosed injury.

--DT Terrell McClain also is considered questionable because of an undisclosed injury.


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