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November 16, 2013
USF vs. Memphis - 5 Keys to victory
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Following Coach Willie Taggart's decision to burn QB Mike White's red shirt, USF saw its biggest offensive spark of the season when the freshman went under center against Houston. White will get the start tonight against Memphis, and the hope is that he will continue to build on his initial success as he plays out the rest of the season. However, White cannot carry an offense that is third worst in Division I football. Ranked 113th in rushing offense (101.6 ypg), 112th in passing offense (154.4 ypg), and dead last in team passing efficiency, the entire offensive unit must come together to overcome Memphis' impressive defensive play.
Memphis' record mirrors USF's at 2-6 overall, but the Tigers are not without their strengths. Their defense is ranked 16th in the nation, allowing on average just 338.6 yards per game; this includes a rushing defense that allows just 108.3 ypg on average. The Tigers also have individual standouts: DB Bobby McCain is eight in the country in interceptions, and DL Martin Ifedi is fourth in pass sacks and ninth in tackles for loss. Much like USF, Memphis' record does not accurately reflect the amount of talent on the team. And as the Bulls enter this game as 1.5 home underdogs, they cannot take the Tigers lightly.
The longer your offense has the ball, the more chances your team has to score. A simple enough concept in theory, of course, but it is one that the Bulls have yet to master. USF is last in the FBS in third-down conversion percentage; through 111 attempts, the Bulls have converted just 25 times. Beyond the poor offensive numbers, that statistic may be the most telling of all in terms of why USF has a 2-6 record. The vast majority of games will not go as it did against Cincinnati, where the defense was able to put up a considerable amount of points. With that in mind, it is imperative to convert on third down and extend drives.
Before the Houston game, WR Andre Davis was averaging just under three receptions per game. However, once Mike White assumed the starting quarterback role, he began to utilize Davis' obvious talents more often. The wide receiver had nine receptions for 134 yards against the Cougars, marking his most productive game of the season. The Bulls now have a quarterback that looks confident in the pocket and isn't afraid to go deep; White's chemistry with Davis could prove potent for the opposition if utilized correctly.
If USF does not make a bowl game, no one will say it is because the team didn't finish the season strong. Rather, it will be blamed on the fact that the Bulls were unable to beat the likes of McNeese State and Florida Atlantic. Still, many in the program believe that it will be able to obtain a bowl game birth; the continuation of that belief depends on what the Bulls do tonight. If the Bulls win, their bowl hopes remain alive as they head into their final home game of the season against SMU. If they lose, they will become ineligible for a bowl game for the third consecutive season.