BULLS : GOAL LINE STAND : CINCINNATI
By Leo Haggerty
The University of South Florida returns to action this Saturday as they continue their march to what the Bulls hope will be a berth in the American Athletic Conference Championship game. The Bulls, along with the University of Central Florida, sit atop the East in a division that looks to be shaping up as one that won’t be decided until the final weekend of games.
It’s Homecoming for the Bulls and the opponent is the University of Cincinnati. Here are the four points of interest I believe the Green & Gold need to be focused on if they want to emerge victorious against the Bearcats.
1ST & GOAL-FORGET ABOUT THE RECORD
The farthest thing from the minds of the South Florida coaches and players should be the streak of consecutive games scoring in excess of 30-plus points. The Bulls have eclipsed the 30 point threshold for 22 straight games. That’s one short of tying the record set by the University of Oregon back in the 2011-12 campaigns.
Yes, it would be nice to tie that record but the primary directive is to win the football game. Keep your eye on the prize and that’s a trip to the AAC Championship game the first Saturday in December.
2ND & GOAL-GET THE RUST OF ASAP
USF is coming off a much-needed bye week. This was a blessing for the Bulls for two major reasons.
First, and the most obvious, it gave South Florida a chance to heal. If you haven’t experienced the thrill of playing college football (I have and, no, I didn’t wear a leather helmet thank you very much) then you have no idea how you feel a day or two after a contest. There’s a winner and a loser but both teams are beat up physically. That’s just a given.
Second, the Green & Gold could decompress mentally and that included both players and coaches as well as administration. After what this team had to endure with Hurricane Irma, both before as well as the aftermath, a one-week hiatus from football would seem to be much appreciated by the Bulls.
With that being said, inactivity means rust when you get back on the gridiron. It’s going to take a few series for South Florida to get back in the groove. Don’t let it hang over into the second quarter or longer because we all know what can happen if you let a team in the game long enough so that think they can win. Just ask Oklahoma.
3RD & GOAL-BRING THE HEAT EARLY
The Bulls defense, much maligned after a sub-par 2016 campaign, has emerged as the most reliable unit and that’s saying a mouthful. Why, you ask? Because you are comparing them to an offense that hasn’t been held under the 30-point plateau in almost two full season. That’s why.
Still, the USF defense has been a revitalized group this season and it all starts with the bigs guys up front. For a majority of the season, he Green & Gold pass rush has been withering and that only helps the pass coverage crew.
South Florida needs to get after the Bearcats from the opening kickoff. Make Cincinnati one-dimensional by taking away the run and then go after the QB with reckless abandon. That should lead to a fistful of turnovers and that will give the Warp 1 offense short fields opportunities.
4TH & GOAL-WATCH THE TARGETING
This is a tough one especially on defensive players. And, this is the part you’re not going to like, it’s probably going to get tougher.
In talking to coaches throughout the country, they’re not happy with the way that the targeting rule is being interpreted. That’s because there is no gray area here.
Any, and I mean any, helmet-to-helmet contact will result in an ejection. Period. End of story.
The officials have been told that intent should not be taken into consideration. If helmet meets helmet, for whatever reason, someone will be taking an early shower.
The Bulls need to be extremely careful when it comes to this issue. USF wants to avoid what Stanford has to go through this weekend.
Two starting defensive lineman for the Cardinal were ejected late in the tilt with Utah. One was border line and the other the Stanford defender was obviously trying to pull up and avoid the contact.
No matter, both made limited helmet-to-helmet contact and were summarily thrown out of the game. Now, both have to sit for the first half this weekend.
With the the meat of the Bulls schedule coming up, South Florida needs all hands on desk the rest of the season. They cannot afford to have anyone missing time for any reason especially when they have to be, as they say in hockey, a healthy scratch.
Ok, let’s get to my prediction. The Bulls will be in a battle with the Bearcats for a half but will eventually wear down Cincinnati with their speed. USF pulls away in the second half for a 42-20 victory and, as Sonny and Cher said, the beat goes on.