Date: Thursday, Oct. 18, 2007
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. Eastern
Location: Rutgers Stadium, Piscataway, N.J.
Stadium Capacity: 42,000 (sold out)
Radio: WFLA 970 AM (Tampa)
USF: Jim Leavitt (11th season). Has a career record of 76-43
Rutgers: Greg Schiano (7th season). Has a career record of 36-45
USF and Rutgers have only met twice with the road team winning both games. USF won 45-31 in 2005 and Rutgers won 22-20 last season.
Don't believe the hype on Thursday road games.
Do believe that they are very difficult but they aren't impossible to win, especially for top teams in the nation.
So the game isn't impossible. It will be tough, however, and USF has a massive target on its chest much like Louisville did when they traveled to Rutgers last season (and loss, 28-25). That night the Scarlet Knights rallied from an 18-point deficit. If USF is up by 18 points on Thursday it's game over.
These are the challenges of a team that's at the top of the mountain. And make no mistake USF fans, this is the top of the mountain. 11 first-place votes in the AP, a No. 2 ranking in the BCS, No. 1 in all but one BCS computer. A lot of people are hating on the Bulls right now because they are uncomfortable with the idea of someone breaking through the glass ceiling. FSU and Miami fans are backbiting USF out of envy.
Even Jenn Sterger and her well-endowed entourage has started to make USF her weekly landing spot. The Bulls are hot and the only way to stay hot is to keep winning.
Inside the Offense
543 – total yards last week in USF's 64-12 victory over UCF, a season high.
365 – total passing yards in last week's victory over UCF, a program best.
346 – rushing yards for Matt Grothe, USF's leading rusher.
22 – receptions for Taurus Johnson, the team leader.
2 – the Bulls' BCS ranking behind Ohio State.
When USF Has the Ball: At this point the offense is completely in the hands of quarterback Matt Grothe. He is the team's leader in virtually every offensive category and the Bulls have put themselves in a position where they cannot afford for him to have an "off" game. The Rutgers defense he will face is very similar to USF's defense, they are fast and aggressive and fly to the football. Grothe's ability to escape the rush, pass on the run and run the ball effectively will be crucial.
Under the Gun: Who else but Grothe? The sophomore quarterback is now the focal point of this offense from a running and passing standpoint. In three of the Bulls' four losses last season, Grothe did not play well. If he does not start strong Thursday it could be a long evening. The running back trip of Benjamin Williams, Mike Ford and Jamar Taylor will have to help, but they haven't proven themselves to be reliable to pick up too much of the slack.
He Said It: "We're worried about Rutgers now. This has been a great season, but let's get past Rutgers." -- Nate Allen.
Inside the Defense
818 – rushing yards for Ray Rice this season, tops in the Big East
202 – rushing yards for Rutgers' Ray Rice in last year's 22-20 victory over the USF
62 – rushing yards by Auburn's Mario Fannin, the highest season total against the Bulls
55 – rushing yards for UCF's Kevin Smith, who led the nation with 172 yards per game going into last Saturday
14 – games since an opposing rush has gained 100 yards against USF.
When Rutgers Has the Ball: The Scarlet Knights are going to feature running back Ray Rice and considering his 818 yards to date, they should be expected to give him at least 25 touches. Mike Teel has struggled when put in position to win close games against Maryland and Cincinnati.
Under the Gun: Bulls defensive tackles Richard Clebert and Aaron Harris will the first line of defense in stopping Rice. If the Bulls can keep Rutgers in 3rd down situations that are five yards or over, they should have very little problem keeping the Scarlet Knights out of the end zone.
He Said It: "[South Florida] has great athletes just like we do. Everybody has to come and play their best football." -- Ray Rice
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