BULLS : GOAL LINE STAND : TULSA
By Leo Haggerty

In what, in my humble opinion, is occurring way too often, USF has another weeknight contest.  This time it’s a Thursday night affair and the opposition is the Tulsa Golden Hurricanes.  Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 at Raymond James Stadium.

South Florida is 5-1 (8-1 overall) for the season in the American Athletic Conference.  That’s good for second place in the East Division and puts the Bulls within striking distance of division-leading Central Florida.  More on that below.

Tulsa is 1-5 (2-8 overall) for 2017 campaign in the AAC.  That puts the Golden Hurricanes at the bottom of the West Division but that one conference win is rather unique.  See below on that as well.

Here’s the four, really three, boxes that the Green & Gold have to check to keep their dream of an AAC championship game alive.

1ST & GOAL PLUS 2ND & GOAL – KEEP YOUR EYES ON THE PRIZE BY NOT LOOKING AHEAD

When the 2017 football season began for South Florida, there was one main goal that every member of the Bulls football family had in their sights.  That goal was an AAC Championship and anything less, in their eyes, would mean the season was a disappointment.

Well, Bulls fans, after nine games the dream is still alive and USF controls its own destiny.  Win out and it’s a trip to the AAC Championship game on December 2nd.  Come away with a conference championship and it’s a lock that South Florida will go to a major bowl game as the highest ranked “Group of Five” squad like Western Michigan did in 2016.

As Confucius said many years ago, “A journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step” and that step is tomorrow night. The only way the prize stays in play is with a win over Tulsa.  It’s as simple as that.

Trust me when I tell you this one.  HC Charlie Strong and his entire staff are making doubly-sure that the USF complete team focus is on Tulsa.  No looking past this tilt to the next one the day after Thanksgiving in Orlando.  I would guess it hasn’t even been mentioned in the Bulls locker room.

That’s why I’m saying this is both 1st and 2nd down.  The Green & Gold must have their complete attention and focus on Tulsa.  If not, the dream goes up in smoke.  The stakes are that high.

3RD & GOAL – SET THE TONE EARLY ON BOTH SIDES OF THE BALL

Remember, the team in the other color jersey tomorrow night beat Houston 45-17.  Oh, in case you’ve forgot, the Cougars are the team that put the single blemish on the right side of the dash in South Florida’s record.  Didn’t want you to forget that.

Another given is that the Bulls coaching staff most assuredly have reminded their charges of that fact.  Tulsa may be having a bad season but they have the propensity to jump up and bite you if you let them.  Just ask Houston.

That’s why it’s so vitally important that the Bulls come out of the gate on fire.  All three phases of the USF game must be working at optimum level and they have to be hitting on all cylinders from the opening kickoff.

Don’t let Tulsa get any sort of confidence.  That’s because we all know how unpredictable a Hurricane can be when it gains strength especially a Golden one.

4TH & GOAL – DON’T LEAVE POINTS ON THE FIELD

This one is easy.  On offense, score touchdowns when the opportunity is there. No turnovers either in the red zone or giving the Golden Hurricanes a short field.

On defense, no easy scores. Make Tulsa earn every yard.  No explosive plays.  Keep everything in front of you.

With special teams, kick field goals if the offense has bogged down.  Don’t give Tulsa any sudden change plays.

This would be my pre-game mantra to the Bulls.  Make plays early and often.  That says it all.

I said at the beginning of the year that the Bulls would be 13-0 and in line for a major bowl berth or even higher.  There was an extremely remote possibility that South Florida could be in the Final Four.  That, as the Fifth Dimension sand, “When the moon is in the 7th house and Jupiter aligns with Mars” is what needed to happen.

Well, that all changed when Hurricane Irma showed up in early September.  With almost the entire team from Florida, this was a major distraction of epic proportion.

From a personal standpoint, players and coaches alike were trying to get in touch with loved ones before, as well as after, the team evacuated.  Some went days with no communication with family members.

From an athletic prospective, games were cancelled and then rescheduled.  The routine was completely changed.

Still, through all of this, South Florida is still in a position to make school history.  I look for the Bulls beat to go on Thursday night to the tune of 34-10.

The only thing left to do is watch.  See you at the TV at 1950 hours.