USF Season Finale has lots of Implications

The Bulls are coming off a huge signature win over Miami Saturday, and have a lot riding on this weekend's game against Connecticut. Five teams remain alive for the conference title, and with a win over UCONN, and a little help, they could can gain a share of the conference title if things fall right the final weekend. TSX gives their skinny on the Bulls outlook for the rest of the season.

If things fall right, South Florida could emerge with a piece of the 2010 Big East championship if the Bulls beat Connecticut in their regular-season finale.

Yes, you read that right.

Despite a loss to Pittsburgh in their most recent conference game, the Bulls are looking at an opportunity to be in a five-way deadlock for first place.

In addition to beating the Huskies, the Bulls need Cincinnati to beat Pittsburgh, and Rutgers to knock off West Virginia in the final weekend of the regular season.

That would give the Bulls, Huskies, Panthers, Mountaineers and Syracuse all 4-3 conference marks and put the tiebreakers to work to determine which gets the BCS prize.

That's not going to favor the Bulls, whose three league losses were to West Virginia, Pitt, and Syracuse, but they still have enough motivation to match that of the Huskies, who are the one bunch who can clinch the bowl berth with a win.

The Bulls are coming off an emotional, 23-20 overtime victory at Miami that puts them within range of a nine-win season for the first time since 2007.

The Bulls are 7-4 on the year and can upgrade their bowl possibilities with an eighth win. Get that plus a victory in the postseason and they would finish 9-4 in Skip Holtz's first season as coach.

A 4-3 conference record also would match their best finish in the Big East. The Bulls were 4-3 in 2005 in their first year in the league and 4-3 again the next year.

They slipped to 2-5 in 2008 and 3-4 in 2009.

NOTES, QUOTES

--South Florida went into the season hoping to get more production out of its running backs and not have to rely so much on QB B.J. Daniels for rushing yards. It seems to have worked out that way. Going into the regular-season finale against Connecticut, RBs Moise Plancher leads the Bulls in rushing yards with 684, averaging 4.7 per carry, and Latavius Murray is right behind with 469 (4.6), even though both have dealt with injury issues. Daniels has 237 yards after rushing for 772 in 2009.

--South Florida's defense is going to have to be solid against the run when it takes on UConn. The Huskies are averaging a league-best 185.4 ypg rushing. The Bulls' defense is holding opponents to 133.0 ypg.

--With the win at Miami, South Florida is now unbeaten in nine overtime games in school history.

SERIES HISTORY: South Florida leads Connecticut 4-3 (last meeting, 2009, 29-27 Connecticut).

SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The Bulls have had problems with consistency on offense, producing only 310.0 ypg, which ranks sixth in the Big East. Much of their success depends on the play of QB B.J. Daniels, who is questionable because of a thigh bruise that sidelined him the second half at Miami. RBs Moise Plancher and Latavius Murray look to shoulder a bigger load than usual to take some of the pressure off freshman QB Bobby Eveld if Daniels can't play, even though Eveld guided the Bulls to two late scores in the win. WR Dontavia Bogan is South Florida's most consistent receiving threat.

SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Defense has been a big key for the Bulls. Even in losses to Syracuse and West Virginia, the unit gave the Bulls a chance to win. South Florida is holding opponents to 133.0 ypg rushing and held Miami, which had run for better than 200 yards in five of its previous six games, to just 165, with 71 coming on one play. The Bulls also have 28 sacks, fourth in the Big East.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "This is a big win for the program. This is the level we aspire to be. This is what we want to do. We've talked about the Big Three in the state of Florida in Florida, Florida State and Miami. They've all won conference championships, they've all won national championships, and this is the level we want to compete at." -- Coach Skip Holtz, in the Tampa Tribune, after the overtime win in Miami.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAME: Connecticut at South Florida, Dec. 4 -- The Bull will look to spoil UConn's Big East hopes and perhaps gain a share of the conference title if things fall right the final weekend. The Huskies, however, have control of their own destiny. A victory will clinch not only at least a share of the conference crown but also will give then their first BCS bowl bid as the Big East rep.

KEYS TO THE GAME: Stop UConn's running game. The Huskies lead the league with an average of 185.4 ypg on the ground with junior RB Jordan Todman leading with the way with 148.1 ypg rushing. If QB B.J. Daniels isn't able to play, the Bulls need veterans to step to take some of the pressure off freshman walk-on QB Bobby Eveld.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:

WR Dontavia Bogan -- Bogan has been South Florida's only consistent threat as a receiver. He is sixth in the Big East in catches (3.9 per game) and fifth in receiving yardage (60.0). He also comes up big in clutch situations, such as his two receptions for 48 yards in South Florida's tying touchdown drive at Miami.

RB Moise Plancher -- The ground game needs to keep it going for the Bulls, and Plancher is a real workhorse. He logged 24 carries for 101 yards in the win at Miami. It was his second 100-yard rushing game of the season.

DE Ryne Giddins -- Giddins was supposed to be playing last year, but an injury sent him to the sideline. The redshirt freshman is beginning to assert himself more and more as the year goes on. He had six tackles, including two for losses (one sack), at Miami while making his first start.

ROSTER REPORT:

--QB B.J. Daniels didn't play in the second half at Miami after aggravating a thigh bruise. If he's not able to go, walk-on freshman Bobby Eveld, who relieved Daniels and guided the Bulls to touchdowns at the end of regulation and in overtime, would get his first start.

--WR/KR Lindsey Lamar had a 37-yard kickoff return to open the second half at Miami before going out with an injury. He has had a return of 30 yards or more in seven of the nine games in which he has had return duty.

--Junior SS Jerrell Young's interception on Miami's final drive in regulation was his third of the year.

Bull will look to spoil UConn's Big East hopes and perhaps gain a share of the conference title if things fall right the final weekend.


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