Bulls Attempt to Unseat ‘Big Dogs' of the Big East

USF plays its first ever conference game and USFnation.com breaks it all down in our weekly preview.

In 2003, the University of South Florida pulled off one of its biggest upsets in school history, defeating Conference USA foe University of Louisville in double overtime, 31-28. The following year, the Bulls suffered a devastating 41-9 loss to the Cardinals. With the 2005 season barely underway, there's already talk of a Louisville Heisman candidate and a National Championship. The undefeated Cardinals are eighth in the latest USA Today Coaches Poll and ninth in the AP Poll. Question is, where does this put South Florida? Can the Bulls knock off a program that has arguably been dubbed the "hottest team in college football?"

Tucked away in the hearts of South Florida football fans is a cherished memory of a not-so-long ago October night. With ten seconds left in regulation, their Bulls had managed to come up even, 21-21, with a school once considered too superior to play. After both teams managed a touchdown in the first overtime, Devon Davis made a startling interception that went 70-yards. Then came the kick by Santiago Gramatica– an effortless 26-yarder that sailed through the goal post. The record crowd of 36,044 rushed the field at Raymond James Stadium as Gramatica was hoisted onto his teammates' shoulders. It appeared then that the Bulls' days of glory had finally arrived.

2004 proved to be a difficult year for USF as the names of some of USF's key players began to fade from the roster. The essence of teamwork was lost, and the Bulls were slaughtered 41-9 at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium. The team only managed four wins that year, and despite a competitive schedule, the Bulls' path to football greatness seemed to have taken an unexpected turn. While Louisville was gaining national attention, USF was still trying to escape the "Southern Florida" misnomer.

The Bulls enter their fourth game of the season a revived program with a new attitude. The team is currently ranked 5th in passing defense (117.3) and 9th in overall defense (230.7). The question remains, however: After cruising to two straight victories over Florida A & M and Central Florida, are the Bulls capable of pulling off one of the greatest upsets in program history, AGAIN?

Louisville brings to the table a seemingly unstoppable offense led by quarterback Brian Brohm. Brohm is 37 for 49 passing this season for 75.51%. In the Cardinals' last game against Oregon State, it took them only 50 plays to rack up 553 yards total offense and put 63 points on the board. Brohm seems to have found his match in redshirt freshman receiver Mario Urrutia– the duo became deadly last weekend after Urrutia caught 7 passes for 175 yards, the 10th highest yardage for a U of L receiver. Urrutia wasn't even originally expected to play but was summoned after senior Broderick Clark suffered a strained knee.

Louisville also has a talented group of running backs in Michael Bush and Kolby Smith. The two combined for 220 yards rushing against Kentucky. Bush had 11 carries for 57 yards and 2 touchdowns against Oregon State, and he's scored in each of his appearances against USF.

South Florida has the ability to stop the U of L offense, but senior sack machine Terrence Royal and the Bulls defense need to bully the heck out of Brohm (hey, the student section at Raymond James can only do so much). The Cards started out a little slow last weekend on offense but fired back with 49 points alone in the 2nd and 3rd quarters. The Bulls need to stay levelheaded and maintain composure Louisville can and will fire a sudden attack if given the opportunity.

Defensively, Louisville has held its first two opponents to a combined 89 rushing yards in 52 attempts. Elvis Demervil will pose the biggest problem for USF. The senior defensive end set a single game NCAA sack record against Kentucky (6), as well as record for the most sacks in two consecutive games (9). Also, senior linebacker Brandon Johnson had his second career interception for a 15-yard touchdown last weekend, proving that the offense isn't the only scoring weapon for U of L.

Louisville's defense was a bit slow in the first quarter against OSU and allowed them to take a 10-0 lead. If U of L's defense seems initially sluggish, USF needs to capitalize on it and gain some early ground. As was said earlier– it won't take much for Louisville to come roaring back if they're initially behind, although favored to win by 22 points, a ‘comeback effort' might not be necessary.

Kickoff is set for 6:45 ET at Raymond James Stadium. The game will be televised on ESPNU Network. This will be both teams' initial Big East appearance.

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