USF Heads to Tallahassee for Showdown at High Noon
By Ralph Long
After my scary bout with what may or may not have been the H1N1 virus, I'm happy to be back and thankful for the doctors that took care of me. In the end, it felt like the flu. Thanks for the phone calls Larry! With friends like you…yeah…
Needless to say the preview starts off with a bad note as USF goes into the biggest game in program history without the on-field services of its unquestioned leader or as Coach Leavitt says "the franchise player" Matt Grothe.
There have been that have been critical of Grothe's ability and actually thought Daniels should have been the starter this season all along. That's incorrect, of course, but even the doubters should agree that if anyone deserved the opportunity to play in this game it was Grothe.
Meanwhile I'll always be a fan of his. From the moment he led my high school alma mater to its first state championship I've been a fan. The young man could do little wrong with me. He had great games, good games and bad games but I never questioned his effort – and I've questioned the effort of other players in this program.
I guess my last great Grothe memory would be the Kansas game last season. In my grades segment I said that "it was a special performance that USF fans should hold close to their hearts for a long time."
Many times Grothe put too much of the offense on his shoulders. Some detractors might say he tried "too hard". But when that becomes a bad thing someone let me know.
But for now, USF program, today is the first day for the rest of your lives.
The Game: South Florida at Florida State
The Time: High Noon
The TV: ESPNU
The Radio: WFLA-970 or whichever station broadcasts FSU games.
The Location: Doak Campbell Stadium, Tallahassee
Tickets: Not unless you've already got one. I will say that you can get them through scalpers for face value or even less if you put in the legwork.
Top Five Wins in USF History: With this being the biggest game in program history let's do a quick look back at the current five biggest wins in program history
1) USF 21, West Virginia 13 in 2007
2) USF 35, Pittsburgh 26 in 2001
3) USF 26, Auburn 23 in 2007
4) USF 45, Louisville 14 in 2005
5) USF 24, East Carolina 7 in 2006
D-Day: D stands for Daniels as in B.J. Daniels. The redshirt freshman quarterback goes from being an heir to the throne to officially being crowned come Saturday at high noon in Tallahassee. Daniels has gone from being the man behind the man to the man. Even worse his first start comes in the biggest game in program's history and against his former hometown team. So not only does B.J. have to deal with new responsibilities and levels of preparations, he's only got to deal with the media blitz of coming home and playing in front of hundreds of family and friends. So yeah this is tough.
D-Day 2: D stands for defense as in FSU's defense. Their pass defense is ranked 117th out of 120. That's not good. So the question is will Mike Canales have enough faith in his young quarterback to air the ball out? The easy way would be to try to grind out yards with his experienced running backs against a fairly undersized FSU defensive line. But a conservative game plan isn't going to give his quarterback confidence to make the plays when he needs to. And he's going to need to make plays. What FSU lacks in ability to cover they will try to compensate for by using a lot of different blitz formations.
D-Day 3: D stands for defense again as in USF's defense. As the extended preseason ended the Bulls showed they were ready to step up their game in preparation for the biggest game in program history. Last week FSU scored on 9 of its first 10 drives against BYU. Well you say "USF's defense is tougher than BYU's"…but how do you know? Wofford, Western Kentucky and Charleston Southern's best offensive players combined can't even crack the third team at FSU. So this is Jim Tresey's first real test as the USC defensive coordinator.
How can the Bulls stop Christian Ponder – a dual threat QB who hasn't made a bad throw this season yet?
How can the Bulls control FSU's talented stable of running backs that churned out 316 rushing yards against BYU?
How will USF's secondary match up with FSU's receivers, who have proven they can be dangerous in space?
Can George Selvie get the sort of pressure necessary to force Christian Ponder into mistakes? Can USF's linebackers wrap up and stop FSU running backs from gaining extra yards after contact? Can Nate Allen be the difference making in the defensive backfield?
Answers?: We just don't know enough about USF based on the first three games to say for sure that they can or can't do anything. We know the Bulls are a talented bunch, experienced on the defensive line but inexperienced at linebacker and thin in the secondary. We know B.J. Daniels has a lot of upside and potential but we aren't sure if he has the composure to deal with this homecoming trial by fire. We know Mike Ford has big-time ability but can we aren't sure if trust him in the biggest game in program history. We will get our answers very soon.
Don't Forget: It's a "white-out" at FSU. The fans and the team will be in as much white as the law allows. Try to wear something other than white…like green.
He Said: "I don't think there will be an underestimation. I'm not as concerned about them as I am us. We just want our kids to set a level of play and go that way every Saturday, no matter who we face." – FSU head coach Bobby Bowden
And He Said: "Miami, Florida State, they've been the big brother programs. Getting a chance to go up and actually getting a chance to play your big brother and beating them one time, it's a great opportunity to do it and you can go, 'I got you that once.'" – USF defensive end George Selvie