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For the 18th year in a row, South Florida was expected to be a front runner for the Big East championship and for the 18th straight year, they have underachieved. Skip Holtz's team has lost four straight games and his team is hoping that Louisville is looking past them to their big matchup with Cincinnati next week.
Last year Louisville was able to stop it's streak of four straight losses in Tampa with a 34-24 win that clinched at least a share of the Big East title. South Florida is notorious for underachieving but this year has been an absolute disappointment. USF was picked to finish second in the Big East this year and after starting 2-0 I think most people felt that the offense would play well around B.J. Daniels. However, Rutgers put the clamps on Daniels and his talented core of receivers the next week and the wheels have come off. South Florida is hoping that their seniors will step up and put an end to their four game skid.
Louisville goes back to facing a spread offense this week. Luckily for the Cards, B.J. Daniels is still the starting quarterback for the Bulls. I try not to be too hard on college players in general but Daniels is just not a good quarterback in my humble opinion. He makes mistakes that you expected him to make when he was forced into action as a redshirt freshman four years ago. Throwing off of his back foot. Running out of bounds instead of throwing the ball away. I could go on forever. But what's crazy is that in the entire time he's been there USF has only signed one quarterback. How have they not tried to improve the most important position on the field? I truly believe that quarterbacks need competition to improve. Daniels has been the unquestioned starter there since Matt Grothe was injured.
South Florida might have the biggest wildcard at wide receiver that UofL will face this season in sophomore Andre Davis. Davis is listed at 6-1 but he is unbelievably long. He is a great vertical threat and B.J. Daniels has the arm strength to get him the ball when he gets behind a defense. He had 20 catches over a two game period but he hasn't been much of a factor in their last three games. He and Terrence Mitchell are the main targets in the passing game and they are both big play threats. Derrick Hopkins has also made a handful of big plays this year. If they can be more efficient in the short passing game, this offense can really put some points up in a hurry. They've done a good job making big plays as evidenced by their 14 yard per catch average. However, they really haven't been able to sustain drives because they don't do well with just trying to move the sticks.
The running game for the Bulls has left a lot to be desired. They rank 82nd in the nation in rushing and unlike previous years, the offense hasn't been very creative in the run game. We are all fairly used to seeing a few reverses and zone trap plays that helped open holes as well as get playmakers in space from South Florida. This year it's been fairly absent. Lindsey Lamar is by far their most consistent and talented offensive weapon and somehow he's only amassed 50 offensive touches this season. He's averaging a touchdown every 10 touches and they still struggle to get him the ball. It's similar to our fans frustration with DeVante Parker not getting the ball enough earlier in the season. Only, they don't have 5-7 other options to work with. Demetris Murray is the feature back of the offense and he's had a respectable season so far. He's not at a big play back but he runs between the tackles well and doesn't get pushed back often. I expect Lamar to get the ball much more often than he has so far this season. He can really cause problems for the defense with his speed.
KEY PLAYERS: QB B. J. Daniels, RB Lindsey Lamar, WR Andre Davis, WR Terrence Mitchell
The Bulls defense has been a sour spot for fans. For any of us that have complaints about our defense, it could be worse. South Florida is the only team in the country without an interception. They also only have 12 sacks on the season and are getting minimal production out of their top players. Ryne Giddins was a trendy pick to be the next great defensive end for South Florida this year. He had 1.5 sacks on the first defensive possession of the season. He has 1.5 sacks as I'm typing this. The lack of pressure has caused the same issues that we've seen with our defense. They're giving up a lot of short passes as well as giving quarterbacks time to get the ball down field. The Bulls have seemingly struck out with three of their top defensive line commits over the last few years and it's showing this season.
The linebackers and secondary have been a little more productive than the defensive line. The linebackers were he strength of the team coming into the season and they have made a ton of tackles. They haven't made a lot of plays behind the line of scrimmage but DeDe Lattimore does lead the team in sacks. The defense plays a basic 4-3 and they occasionally slide an outside linebacker down to the line to "cover" the tight end. I wouldn't call their defense as bland as Pitt's because they run a good amount of stunts with their defensive line. But the lack of blitzing and press coverage plays directly into Teddy and Watson's strengths. Like last week I expect a big day on offense for the Cardinals.
KEY PLAYERS: OLB DeDe Lattimore, MLB Mike Lanaris, OLB Sam Barrington, DT Corey Grissom
- USF has three former 4-star defensive lineman. None of them started last week.
- B.J. Daniels hasn't eclipsed 20 total touchdowns since his freshman year when he had 23.
- USF only has two scholarship quarterbacks on it's roster.
- USF has lost two of it's top receivers so far this year. Sterling Griffin to injury and Chris Dunkley hopefully to jail.
- B.J. Daniels needs 7 more interceptions to tie the all time record of 44 at South Florida.