USF vs. Pitt: Can the Bulls Win in White?

The University of South Florida football team departs for Pittsburgh tomorrow afternoon, each player carrying a heavy burden on his shoulder- not from the weight of schoolbooks or shoulder pads, but from the question that has been pressing fans since the Bulls' second straight loss on the road: Can they win in white?

South Florida (3-2, 1-0 Big East) is 0-2 on the road thus far in the season. Twice while wearing white the Bulls' offense has appeared almost nonexistent, smothered by two teams it had a legitimate shot at beating. How else could a team completely obliterate Louisville, yet crumble one week later in Miami? Yes, Louisville and Miami are two entirely different teams, but this goes beyond what team is on the other end of the field.

The X factor here, the missing variable- it isn't running more trick plays or Julmiste praying that he finds Amarri Jackson in the end zone- it's about these guys finding their comfort zone in a place that's not home.

Any Bulls fan that was there the night USF knocked off Louisville will tell you that the atmosphere on the field was electric, it was contagious, it spread through the stands like wild fire. You could sense the burning desire. You could feel their hearts pounding. They came ready for a fight, knowing that no one in the world outside from the 35,000 fans present, believed they could win.

At Penn State you could sense the jitters; in Miami there was a lot of second-guessing. You don't lose trust in each other in a week, over a four-hour bus ride, or in the most hostile stadiums of NCAA Division I football. With more away games than home this year, going 5-6 won't win the Big East or earn a birth to a bowl game. South Florida needs this win against Pittsburgh, and they need to do so convincingly, not just to silence the critics, but to defeat the silly notion that the Bulls can't win on the road, or better yet, in what fans are unaffectionately calling the "tampon uniforms."

Pittsburgh (2-4, 1-0 in the Big East) had a somewhat disastrous start under new coach Dave Wannstedt, compared to last season's 8-3 record. They have an excellent quarterback in junior Tyler Palko, but he lacks the protection that enabled him to become one of nation's premier quarterbacks in last season's second half.

South Florida can take advantage of an inexperienced Pitt team- their two-deep lists 20 freshman and 12 sophomores. Be on the lookout for true freshman Rashad Jennings, however. He had his team's first 100-yard rushing performance against Cincinnati, going 102 yards and a touchdown in 11 carries. Another one to watch on the Pittsburgh offense is Greg Lee who had 130 yards receiving on 9 catches against Rutgers and he leads the Big East with 9 career 100-yard receivers performances.

Defensively Pittsburgh is ranked 29th in total defense, giving up on average, 315.67 yards per game, and last week holding Cincinnati to 312 yards total offense. Cornerback Darrelle Revis is currently tied for 18th in the nation with .50 interceptions per game (he's had 3 already this season). Linebacker H.B. Blades, another key defensive player for Pittsburgh is 16th nationally in tackles with an average of 10.8 per game- his single-game career high came at Nebraska this season with 14.

On special teams Pittsburgh appears solid with kicker Josh Cummings racking up a career-high 3 field goals and 3 extra points (12 points) against Cincinnati, and this was done 2 weeks after Cummings had surgery on his kicking leg! Also last week against Cincinnati, Darrelle Revis had a 79-yard punt return for a touchdown.

Kickoff is at 2 PM. The Bulls defeated Pitt (35-26) in their last visit at Heinz Field. The Panthers visited Raymond James Stadium in 2004, crushing the Bulls 43-14. This is the teams' first season as conference rivals.

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