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October 26, 2013
USF must do these five things to win
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The USF Bulls (2-4, 2-0) enter Saturday's matchup against the Louisville Cardinals (6-1, 2-1) as 20.5 point underdogs. What will it take for the Bulls to pull off what may be the ultimate upset of the season?
1. Score some offensive touchdowns.
It is incredible to think that something so seemingly obvious could be considered a key to the game. However, for a Bulls squad that has not scored a touchdown on offense in two games, it is crucial.
Yes, USF won both of those two games despite not having a successful scoring drive, but Louisville is more than a tier above teams like Cincinnati and UConn. The Cardinals are third in the nation in pass efficiency and first in the American Athletic Conference in turnovers lost; they do not lose the ball frequently, and thus the defense cannot be expected to generate the majority of the points.
USF's primary offensive weapon, Marcus Shaw, is a game-time decision, but even if he does not play the Bulls must find a way to generate some offense.
2. Take advantage of the extra rest - and the most recent win.
The Bulls are coming off a 13-10 victory over Connecticut and nearly two weeks of rest and practice at home; the Cardinals are coming off a 38-35 defeat against UCF and had to make the trip from Louisville to Tampa.
These practical elements of football have the ability to affect the outcome on the field. The Cardinals will undoubtedly be looking to redeem themselves after falling to the Knights, but if USF enters this game with the renewed energy and vigor that it should have after back-to-back victories and a bye week, the team should be able to gain a considerable amount of momentum.
3. Capitalize in third down situations.
This will be extremely important for the Bulls on both offense and defense. USF is ranked 121st in the nation in third-down conversions, good for third worst in the FBS.
USF is facing a Louisville defense that is second in the country in stopping its opponents on third down. The Bulls went just 5-of-17 on third down conversions against UConn, and that efficiency will have to improve to get a win over the Cardinals.
In addition, Louisville is the best team in the country when it comes to converting on third down. The Bulls defense will have to work to get its opponent off the field, forcing third-and-long situations and a few three-and-out drives along the way.
4. Contain Teddy Bridgewater
A Heisman hopeful will be entering Raymond James Stadium on Saturday afternoon, and it is expected that Bridgewater will continue to make his case for the honor as he takes on the Bulls.
Already being compared to the likes of the NFL's Andrew Luck, Bridgewater's numbers this season have been impressive: he is third in the nation in both passing efficiency and passing touchdowns, has already thrown for over 2,000 yards in just seven games, and is responsible for 120 of the Cardinals' total points scored this season.
The junior quarterback is an exceptional talent, and poses the biggest challenge that USF will face this season.
The defense must apply pressure early and often and make sure that his favorite target, WR DeVante Parker, is covered at all times.
5. Focus on the things the team does best.
There is simply no way of getting around it: USF is a major underdog in this matchup.
However, there are certainly areas in which this team is excelling at the moment. DE Julius "Juju" Forte is current second in the conference in forced fumbles, and LB DeDe Lattimore is 21st in the nation in solo tackles with 35 on the season.
Building off these individual defensive triumphs, USF boasts an 11th-ranked red zone defense, which will match up well against the Cardinals' 25th-ranked red zone offense. If the Bulls can continue its excellence on defense while the offense works on coming around, the program will give itself a real chance to pull off an upset.