Two things to know about a -6 turnover margin
1) It's bad.
2) It usually leads to losses.
In its last three games against Cincinnati, USF has a -6 turnover margin and to no surprise they've lost all three of them. So this means its George Selvie's and Nate Allen's last opportunity to get a on-field victory over the Bearcats. And in order to do that they will have to create chaos, cause turnovers and hope the B.J. Daniels-led offense will be safe and efficient.
If nothing else, the Bulls have flipped the switch slightly as Jim Leavitt pounced on Joe Tresey when he was released from Cincinnati in January after "philosophical differences" with Bearcats coach Brian Kelly. Tresey's emphasis on takeaways has already been felt on the Bulls' defense with a +7 turnover margin on the season. And it isn't just the turnovers but the timing and execution of them.
Three weeks ago USF forced four turnovers after Florida State had reached the Bulls' 40 yard-line. Not only did those turnovers change the game's momentum, but they kept points off the board and shortened the game. In a game that expects to be controlled by defense, the winner of the turnover battle will win the game and finally USF has a major weapon to go to battle with.
So let's go into a couple of key matchups:
Cincinnati WR Mardy Gilyard vs. USF's secondary: Gilyard is not only the best receiver in the Big East, many think he's the best receiver in the nation. Last season the Florida prep product burned the Bulls for 98 yards on four catches with a 48-yard play and a 26-yard touchdown. Expect the veteran Jerome Murphy to get the opportunity to cover Gilyard one-on-one but don't be surprised if the Bulls show Gilyard attention with double teams and safety help.
Cincinnati QB Tony Pike vs. USF's pass rush: Besides being a physical specimen with ridiculous upside, Jason Pierre-Paul also forces offensive lines to make a major decision. Do we or do we not double team George Selvie? Doubling Selvie would mean leaving Pierre-Paul one-on-one. That's not a good idea. Not doubling Selvie would mean leaving both bookends one-on-one. That's not a good idea either. But while the focus is on the outside rushers, look to the inside where Terrell McClain, Aaron Harris and the hybrid Craig Marshall should be able to get to Pike. If they don't get to Pike, there will be consequences.
USF RB Mike Ford vs. USF RB Mo Plancher: No this isn't a head-to-head matchup, but rather a "can someone please step up" battle. And right now neither player seems to want the starting RB role on a consistent basis. In the Bulls' 34-20 victory over Syracuse it was Ford who looked like the top back with 68 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries. Plancher struggled with 19 yards on nine carries. If Ford can pick up the slack on a 20-carry basis that will must. If the coaching staff wants to continue the RB platoon, it's important that both backs are much more consistent.
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