A Critical Game For USF

This is a huge game for the Bulls this weekend as they travel to play at Rutgers. USF hasn't played in three weeks and they need a win to keep within striking distance of Big East Conference leader West Virginia. Here is a game breakdown of the Bulls vs the Scarlet Knights.

South Florida (3-3) @ Rutgers (6-2)

South Florida
The Bulls have not played a game since their October 15th loss at Pittsburgh. Their home game against West Virginia was postponed (Dec. 3rd) because of Hurricane Wilma and then they had the next week off. USF has not been a very good road team and they need to learn to win away from Raymond James Stadium. Over their last nine away games they are 2-7.

Offensively, they are led by running back Andre Hall, who happens to average 99.7 yards per game, third in the Big East. Hall has 598 yards (122) carries and six rushing touchdowns. Quarterback Pat Julmiste has thrown for over 700 yards, five touchdowns and five interceptions. He is fifth in the Big East in passing efficiency (103.6). He must play with more consistency and so must his wide receivers, who are dropping too many passes. The leading receiver is actually running back Andre Hall with 18 receptions. Johnny Peyton leads the USF receivers with 12 receptions (29th in the Big East).

Overall, USF is sixth in the conference in total offense (351 yards per game) and they are averaging 25 points per game.

Defensively, South Florida has been very good. They are fourth in the Big East in total yards allowed per game (311) and second in scoring defense (18.7). Linebacker Ben Moffitt leads the team in tackles with 45 and he also has seven tackles for a loss and two sacks. Linebacker Stephen Nicholas is the best player on this side of the ball for the Bulls and he is having a huge year with 36 tackles, 10 tackles for a loss and a team leading five quarterback sacks. The defense has 21 sacks in six games this season and is holding opponents to 28% on third down conversions.

Do you believe that Rutgers is 6-2 after a 31-21 win against Navy over the weekend? It will be their first winning season since 1992. Brian Leonard (58 rushing yards) and Ray Rice (80 rushing yards) each ran for two touchdowns as Rutgers has started this season 6-2 for the first time since 1979. They also became bowl eligible and the Scarlet Knight fans stormed the field in celebration following the game.

Rutgers is led by quarterback Ryan Hart. He is currently second in Big East in passing efficiency (144.6) after completing 60% of his passes for over 1,300 yards, 11 touchdowns and only three interceptions. The running back tandem of Leonard (562 yards) and Rice (622 yards) has combined for 1,184 rushing yards in eight games. They have also combined for 10 rushing touchdowns. At the wide receiver position the Scarlet Knights have three players in the top eight in the Big East receiving stats – Tress Moses (32 receptions for 510 yards and three scores), Shawn Tucker (24 receptions for 366 yards and one touchdown) and Clark Harris (25 receptions for 366 yards and one score).

Rutgers is averaging 28 points per game and they are second behind Louisville in total offense, averaging 384.3 yards per game.

Defensively, The Scarlet Knights are third in rush defense (125.5) and seventh in pass defense (220.3) in the Big East. They are giving up 19 points per game.

The Matchup
This is a critical game in the Big East, as both USF and Rutgers try and stay within striking range at conference leader West Virginia. Both the Bulls and Scarlet Knights along with Pittsburgh have one loss in conference play, while the Mountaineers remain unbeaten.

The big question for the Bulls is will Jim Leavitt's club be rusty from not having played in three weeks? They need to have a very good first quarter and get out of the gate quickly. USF is also not a very good road team and they must find a way to make the big plays this week. The Bulls have to have a big game from running back Andre Hall and the wide receivers and quarterback play must be more consistent. Defensively, these are two pretty good units, especially against the run. The key for both teams will be stopping the run and forcing the opposing quarterback to make plays and move the chains. At this stage of the season Rutgers has certainly proven that they have the more balanced offense with Hart at quarterback, their two running backs and trio of receivers. Defensively, they need to stop Hall and get pressure on Julmiste to mask their poor secondary.

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