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October 3, 2013
Five things to watch: Cincinnati
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The Bulls begin AAC play as they host Cincinnati. Here are some of the things I'll be watching closely during the game, a game that could get ugly for the Bulls if they can't sustain their offense again. Here are the 5 biggest things I'll be watching in this game.
Who are the Bearcats?
Cincinnati handled Purdue and Northwestern State earlier in the year, but looked pedestrian last week against Miami (Ohio) in which they scored 14 points. Which team are they? On paper, Cincinnati averages 228 yards through the air and 257 yards on the ground, but against Miami, they had just 198 on the ground (still a lot) and 178 through the air. The USF defense, which was gashed by Miami all afternoon last week, will have to get it together, correct the schemes, and make sure they are able to stop Brendon Kay and the Cincinnati offense. I want to see how good they are and how USF is able to respond to it.
Marcus Shaw vs. Cincinnati rush defense
The Bearcats are only allowing 95 yards a game on the ground and held Miami (Ohio) to just 7 net yards rushing on 29 attempts, showing their front 7, led by linebacker Greg Blair, are tough. Marcus Shaw, the lone star on offense through the early half of the season, leads the way with 525 yards rushing, on pace for 1000 yards. Shaw will have to find his running lanes quickly and turn up field in a hurry to avoid the front 7. I'll be watching how our offensive line holds up against the Bearcat front 7 and if they are able to open up some lanes for Shaw to get up field. If Shaw is bottled up the entire night, it will be a long and painful game.
We knew from the beginning Coach Taggart wanted to play his young players that he recruited and he has repeated he will find the players that can get the job done. Freshmen like Nigel Harris, Lamar Robbins, Nate Godwin, Derrick Calloway, Darius Tice, Johnny Ward, Hassan Childs and Dominique Threatt, are seeing playing time and this trend will continue. USF is in a rebuilding year and the freshmen are the foundation that Coach Taggart needs in order to be successful down the road. Look for this trend to continue as the freshmen begin to see more reps than some of the veteran players and begin to take over starting jobs.
Progression for Steven Bench
Bench is the man going forward, according to Coach Taggart. Now that USF has their starting quarterback for more than one week, I want to watch his progression in the passing game. At times, Bench looked good on the field, making some decent throws, but at other times, pressure got to him and things looked bad. Bench needs to continue to learn the playbook and mature in the system. He is the man going forward and seems to have the most athletic ability out of anyone we have seen. If USF is going to battle in games and move the ball down the field, they will need Bench to mature and run the offense.
Conference play begins, chance to turn it around
Yes, we are 0-4 and its been painful to watch, but the conference portion of the schedule is now here and it gives the Bulls a chance to progress. Non-conference play was bad and we learned this team has a long way to go, but AAC play presents the Bulls with some winnable games. SMU, Memphis, Uconn, are on the schedule and give the Bulls a chance to compete and possibly win a few games. I'm not saying the Bulls will be able to win the AAC (Louisville, yikes) but they have a chance to learn from the early portion of the schedule and regroup in conference play. I want to see how this team regroups after the Miami loss and how they approach league play starting with Cincinnati.