BULLS : GOAL LINE STAND : HOUSTON
By Leo Haggerty
The undefeated South Florida Bulls (4-0 and 7-0 overall) take on the University of Houston (2-2 and 4-2 overall) this Saturday. Kickoff is slated for 3:45 at Raymond James Stadium.
Here are the four areas I think the Bulls need to be focused upon to move to 8-0 and that won’t be easy won’t be easy. As you read below, Houston is a very formidable opponent who can upset South Florida if the Green & Gold don’t bring their A game.
1ST & GOAL-PLAY LOOSE ON OFFENSE
USF has the record now. Most consecutive games scoring at least 30 points.
This was the 800 pound gorilla in the locker room for, at least, the past three week. Would South Florida be able to equal, and then surpass, the 23 game streak of the University of Oregon? No one wanted to talk about it but it was there. You could feel it.
Well, the Green & Gold did just that. The record is now theirs at 24 and still counting. Now it’s time to exhale.
With this now out of the way, the Bulls can concentrate on the one goal at hand and that’s to continue winning. Whether it’s 55-35 or 17-10, it goes to the left of the dash and that is the only arithmetic that matters.
Don’t get me wrong. Any positive record is a feather in the cap of that particular program. This one will definitely help South Florida in recruiting skilled position players on offense because they see that USF, with the Warp 1 offense, is ultra up-tempo. Their skill set will be on display every snap and there will be a lot of them.
But it’s a record that discounts winning and here’s an example. Let’s say the Bulls end up running the table and playing in a major bowl as I predicted in August. My guess is the Cotton Bowl against West Virginia or Oklahoma State. USF plays a great game but gets beat 52-49 in 3 overtimes.
Record intact but a heartbreaking loss. That’s when that record becomes meaningless.
Now, it’s back to a just win the next one mentality and that’s the bottom line. That happens to be Houston so look for the Bulls to play with a load off their mind especially on offense. Hard playing with King Kong in the back of your mind.
2ND & GOAL-SHUT DOWN THE RUN ON DEFENSE
The way to beat South Florida, in my opinion, is to keep the Warp 1 offense on the sideline and control the clock. The easiest method of accomplishing this is to successfully run the football on the Green & Gold. That limits the number of possessions the USF offense will have over the course of the game.
When the USF defense has made the opposition offense one-dimensional by shutting down the run, the Bulls have been exceptional. Then they can turn their front four loose to rush the passer. That’s when lots of good things happen for South Florida.
By taking away the run, USF is forcing a team to play their game. The clock stops for incomplete passes which means more chances for the Bulls offense to rack up points.
The Green & Gold need to, early in the game, make a concerted effort to eliminate Houston’s ability to run the football. Make the Cougars throw and let the nation’s leading interceptors, with 16, go to work.
3RD & GOAL-DON’T LEAVE POINTS ON THE FIELD
This is not the week for South Florida to settle for field goals when they get into the Red Zone. USF needs to find a way to get the pigskin to the end zone. Period.
Bulls fans, don’t misinterpret what I’m saying. Three points are nice but, when the Green & Gold get inside the opposition 20 yard line, six points are a must especially this week.
Houston is a team that cuts its teeth on Power Five opposition and, for the most part, holds their own. In 2016, the Cougars beat Oklahoma and Louisville. In 2017, UH went to Arizona and beat the Wildcats before losing to Texas Tech by three points.
UH is a dangerous opponent and, in all likelihood, the best team USF has faced to date. The can beat you in high scoring affairs as well as take you down in low scoring games as well.
With that being said, the Warp 1 offense needs to produce touchdowns as opposed to field goals. Make Houston match you point for point. That, in my book, is a recipe for disaster for the Cougars because, as we all have come to know, the Bulls put up 31 by mistake.
4TH & GOAL-RUN AWAY AND HIDE
Get the lead early and keep it. Make the Cougars chase you on the scoreboard.
USF is one of the best front-runners in college football today. Once the Bulls go up on a team by double-digits, it’s been Katie bar the door.
Not only is the offense a scoring machine but the defense hasn’t taken a back seat this year either. The Bulls defenders have stepped their game up a notch or two this season and the results are exemplary. Three-and-outs are no longer the exception but the rule with the South Florida defense.
Win the toss. Defer and get a three-and-out on Houston’s first possession of the game forcing a punt. Take the football and drive it quickly to the end zone. Get ahead and stay ahead.
Look for this game to be won and lost in the trenches. Houston will try to get extremely physical on both side of the ball but especially on defense. The Cougars will be looking for a way to manhandle the Bulls up front so they can get to Flowers early and often.
I think South Florida has a bit of a problem early with the Cougars but, in the second half, start to pull away. My call is USF 38-24.