Winning on the road in college football is difficult. Winning on the road within the conference is critical. Cincinnati, which is riding a four-game winning streak, plays its Big East Conference road opener on Saturday at South Florida.
"They are the best overall football team we've played to date," coach Butch Jones said of USF. "They're extremely explosive. They're a great home team. We're going to have to play physical. It's going to be a great challenge for us."
Once again the Bearcats are facing a mobile quarterback in B.J. Daniels who has 11 touchdowns, eight passing and three rushing. UC struggled in the first half last week against Louisville which dominated the line of scrimmage before the Bearcats began to wear them down in the third quarter.
On Saturday at USF, the Bearcats will face a formidable defensive front which ranks sixth in sacks and second in tackles for loss.
"This is the most complete team we've played," Jones said. "It starts with the physicality on the offensive and defensive lines. We thought they were the best defensive front we faced last year, next to NC State."
UC's formula for winning will remain the same. Pound the ball with Isaiah Pead, the Big East Conference's player of the week after rushing for 153 yards and a TD last week. On defense, the Bearcats will look to create turnovers against the Bulls who rank 17th in the nation in turnover margin.
"We have to get off to a fast start and establish the tempo immediately," Jones said.
--Senior RB Isaiah Pead was named Big East Conference offensive player of the week after having 20 carries for 153 yards and a touchdown in last week's 25-16 win against Louisville in the Bearcats' Big East opener.
--Cincinnati is plus-12 in turnover margin, and ranks second in the FBS with 2.0 turnovers forced per game. UC is tied for 11th in the nation with 10 interceptions.
--UC's defense has not allowed an offensive touchdown in nine quarters and its past three opponents are averaging 14 yards rushing per game.
SERIES HISTORY: Cincinnati leads 5-3 (Last meeting, USF won 38-30 at Nippert Stadium.
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The Bearcats would like to be more efficient on first down, with four yards or more on 60 percent of plays. The run efficiency has been good, but the passing offense needs to improve. Still, UC has been able to establish remarkable balance on offense, with 213.7 yards rushing per game and 208 passing. Isaiah Pead continues to be engine that drives the Bearcats offense with 624 yards and 8 TDs. Senior QB Zach Collaros has rushed for 204 yards and 4 TDs while passing for 1,187 yards and 11 touchdowns.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: Separated by a bye week, the Bearcats put together two straight solid defensive performances with a shutout of Miami of Ohio and a game against Louisville in which they did not allow an offensive touchdown. UC is allowing just 70.5 yards rushing per game, fourth-best in the country. The 16.5 points per game allowed ranks 15th in the nation. The pass rush was an area of concentration in the preseason and the Bearcats have produced 21 sacks through six games.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "For D.J., it's just focus. We talk a lot about focus. When you make a mistake, you have to snap and clear and move on to the next play. D.J. is a very prideful individual and I know it bothers him. On the positive side he had a big touchdown catch for us." -- Butch Jones on D.J. Woods who was replaced as punt returner during last week's game after fumbling twice. Both fumbles were recovered by UC. Woods will compete with three other players this week to retain punt return duties.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: Cincinnati at South Florida, Oct. 22 -- The Bearcats had won four straight in the series before a 38-30 loss to the Bulls last year at Nippert Stadium.
KEYS TO THE GAME: After two consecutive sub-par first halves, the Bearcats must get off to a fast start on the road. UC must win the line of scrimmage much like it did last week in the second half against Louisville. The Bearcats defense once again must contain a mobile quarterback, this time B.J. Daniels, who averages 51.6 yards rushing and 258.8 passing.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Senior RB Isaiah Pead -- Ranks sixth in the nation with 6.78 yards per carry. He's coming off his eighth-career 100-plus yard rushing game, third this season.
Senior DL Derek Wolfe -- Recorded a career-high 11 tackles, including 2.5 for loss, a sack and a pass breakup in last week's win over Louisville.
Senior WR D.J. Woods -- Fumbled twice while returning punts last week. Coach Butch Jones said it's become a mental issue for Woods who must compete to win back his job this week.
--D.J. Woods was replaced as punt returner by Danny Milligan in the second half last week after fumbling twice. Butch Jones said there would be an open competition between Woods, Isaiah Pead, Danny Milligan, and Anthony McClung. Whoever has the best week of practice will start at South Florida.
--Junior P Pat O'Donnell leads the Big East Conference with a 44.1 average. He has six punts of 50 or more yards and has dropped 11 inside the 20-yard line.
--Junior DB Malcom Murray tore his ACL in practice earlier this month and will miss the remainder of the season.