BULLS – GOAL LINE STAND : CINCINNATI
By Leo Haggerty
Archived under Featured Articles – College & University of South Florida

South Florida takes on Cincinnati in the middle game of their three-game home stand Saturday at Raymond James Stadium.  Kickoff is schedule for 7 pm EST.

The Bulls are coming off a tough 17-7 home setback to Temple on Thursday night at RayJay.  That dropped USF to 4-5 overall and 2-3 in the American Athletic Conference East Division.

The 17th-ranked Bearcats destroyed Connecticut 48-3 at Nippert Stadium in Cincy.  That moved the Cats to 8-1 and 5-0 in the AAC East.  Also, Cincinnati is the top-ranked Group of 5 football team and that equates to being the leading candidate in the race for the New Year’s Six bowl game.  That spot goes to the highest ranked non-Power 5 Conference team and, right now, the Bearcats are the lead dog in the pack to represent all Group of 5 programs.  That means not only massive exposure but a big payday for the Black & Red.

So, on paper, it doesn’t look like the Bulls have a chance of beating the Bearcats. But, they don’t play the game on paper, right?  Plus, we have a precedent that was set earlier in the week on the college hardwood that proves this hypothesis.

Ask the University of Kentucky basketball team what happens when you start reading your press clippings and don’t show up ready to play.  That led to a home lost to Evansville and that can occur Saturday night as well.

USF has a chance.  Below are my 4 keys that the Bulls need to accomplish to make that dream a reality.  Enjoy.

1ST DOWN – NO EXCUSES

The Bearcats are going to come out and punch the Bulls in the nose the first chance they get.  No, there’s not going to be a plethora of fights.  That’s coach speak for Cincy wants to be physical from the opening kickoff and take the play to USF.

How will the Bulls respond when Cincinnati fires that first salvo at the Green & Gold?  Will South Florida stay toe-to-toe with the Cats and punch back?  Or, will USF run away and hide like a grade school kid that just had the bully steal his lunch money.

South Florida must punch back and give as much, or more, than they receive.  If they don’t, it will be a long night in Tampa.

2ND DOWN – BE THE SPOILER

The Bulls have no chance of playing for the AAC Championship but they can determine who does.  Here’s how they do that.

The next three games are at home with Cincinnati followed by a home date with Memphis then a jaunt down I-4 to take on UCF.  All of these opponents are teams who can possibly be in the conference title game.

South Florida can determine who goes to the December 7th contest by going out and winning any, or all, of those three tilts.  If USF is successful twice, it makes the Green & Gold bowl eligible and that’s an added incentive to win.

3RD DOWN – EXTEND DRIVES 

This key, along with 4th down, is vital if USF wants to emerge victorious.  South Florida must put together some sustained drives to keep the Cincinnati offense on the sidelines.

The Bulls offense must avoid three-and-outs like the plague.  South Florida needs to make sure they get at least one first down on all their possessions and score on at least 40% of the time they have the pigskin on offense.  That way the Green & Gold can control the clock which will be huge.

4TH DOWN – GET OFF THE FIELD

The Bulls defense cannot allow any extended double-digit play drives by the Bearcats offense.  This would be disastrous because then Cincy would be controlling the clock and that’s a really bad thing for South Florida.

USF needs to get off the field as quickly as possible.  Cincinnati will play “hide-and-seek” if the Green & Gold allow to HC Luke Fickell”s offense to do that and they are very good at doing just that.

OK, time to make a call.  Although it does pain me to do this, I don’t see how South Florida finds a way to win this game.  Keep in mind that the only loss the Bearcats have is to Ohio State in Columbus.  That’s a pretty good resume for any team and not just a Group of 5 program.

South Florida should put up a fight but Cincy has too many weapons for the Bulls to handle.  UC, 35-20, in a game that’s close until the second half.

All action shots provided by photo-journalist Trace Crisp.