UConn Heads South to Meet the Bulls

The University of Connecticut and South Florida are two of the newest Division IA –now called FBS – teams in the country with each under a decade old. The similarities stop there. The rest of the college football universe keeps on waiting for South Florida to become dominant. On the flipside, the conventional wisdom is that the Huskies success is only temporary.

How can you continue to win in the barren Northeast?

The way think goes the Bulls are the future powers of the Big East and the Huskies are the supposed to be a solid team from the pro sports fanaticized area of New England.

When the two schools meet on Sunday night at Raymond James Stadium at 8:15 p.m. however only one of those teams has a Big East Conference championship trophy on its campus. And there is only one team that has still has a shot at the Big East title this season.

And it's not the team fro m the warm weather climate, fertile recruiting ground, and national acclaim.

UConn returns to the House of Horrors that is Raymond James Stadium as they still cling to hope of a repeat Big East title when they take on struggling South Florida (6-4,1-4).

The Huskies (7-3, 3-2) still have an outside shot for the league title and bring with them confidence from a 38-14 win over Syracuse last Saturday.

The Huskies have the nation's top rusher in Donald Brown and his 156 yards per game, but unlike last weeks game against the Bulls are one of the top defenses in the nation against the run.

With defensive end George Selvie and an athletic defensive line and fast linebackers, the Bulls are allowing only 89 yards per game on the ground.

"They're fifth in the country against the run," UConn coach Randy Edsall said. "We're going to have to have a great week of preparation and go down there and play an error free football game to give ourselves an opportunity to win."

When you look at the numbers it's hard to figure out how the Bulls have lost four of five in Big East play. The defense is great against the run and Selvie is one of the top pass rushers in the nation. On offense quarterback Matt Grothe is one of the most dangerous players in the country and is leading the Big East in passing and is the leading rusher for the Bulls out of the spread offense.

Look inside the numbers and it's apparent. The Bulls have a penchant, Grothe in particular, for turning the ball over. In South Florida's four losses Grothe has been intercepted eight times. In the six wins he has been picked off only three times.

"They have had some tough luck," Edsall said. "They have thrown eight interceptions in four ball games. That's the tell tale sign when you don't win. The team turns the ball over the least amount of times comes away with the win."

USF coach Jim Leavitt points to the=0 Aturnovers for the struggles of his team, which he started from scratch 11 years ago. Against Rutgers last week, a 49-16loss at home, the Bulls committed five turnovers.

"The turnovers really hurt us. They hurt us in the first half, and they hurt us after that. We had one ball tipped," Leavitt said. "On one of the balls that was thrown a receiver should have done a different thing. (Wide receiver) Jessie Hester fumbled. Jessie is a real good receiver for us, so that was huge."

Grothe may be careless, but when he is going well he can be extremely dangerous. He has 2,362 yards and 15 touchdown passes with an efficiency rating of 138.33 completing 64percent of his passes. Grothe is also the leading rusher for the Bulls with 393 yards, though the stat is deceiving because sacks have resulted in 195 yards lost rushing. In college, sacks are subtracted from rushing totals, not passing like it is in the NFL.

Grothe sported a boot on Tuesday but maintained he will start on Sunday. Edsall expects Grothe to play.

"Grothe's the leading pa sser in the Big East, he is a tremendous athlete and can get himself out of situations that can be tough," Edsall said.

"We are prepared for (backup Grant Gregory), but I will be dumbfounded if Matt Grothe isn't playing against us. He is such a competitor."

UConn's Big East title hopes are slim, that's no secret, but the Huskies have plenty to play for. The Huskies will be going to their third bowl game next month and it's a chance to make an impression. All the signals point to the Gator/Sun Bowl picking Notre Dame, but there is still a chance to impress.

The Huskies are also a candidate to return to Charlotte for the Meineke Car Care Bowl or more likely trips to Toronto or Birmingham for the International Bowl and the Papajohns.com Bowl. The Big East is going to be muddled at the top and an impressive road game victory could go a long way towards securing a premium game.

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