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November 23, 2013
SMU: Five things to watch
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It's the last home game of the season for the USF Bulls as they enter the game against SMU at 2-7 (2-3). Last weekend, the Bulls lost an ugly game to Memphis 23 to 10. Freshman Mike White struggled in his second career start to move the ball down the field and the Bulls fell out of their slim bowl game chances. While the season is nearly over, there are still a lot of things to watch during the game. Here are the top five I'll be focusing on during the course of the game.
Get ready for a lot of passes
If you like passing offense, you are in for a treat. SMU is one of the top passing teams in the country, averaging over 380 yards a game through the air. While they aren't a big, deep vertical passing team, they do throw a short, intermediate passing game that will dink and dunk its way down the field. The Bulls allow 211 yards threw the air, but haven't faced an offensive system like this. Defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan will have to dial up some pressure but can't leave defensive backs on an island either. Run! Keep running!
The Bulls have been fairly consistent this season running the ball, averaging 104 yards a game on the ground. Memphis was able to bottle up the Bulls rushing attack, but SMU, who allows 150 yards a game on the ground, has struggled to stop anyone. The best way to keep the SMU passing offense off the field is by running the ball and controlling the clock. For Marcus Shaw, Darius Tice, and others, they should have a lot of chances to carry the rock and should be able to pick up positive yardage the entire night against SMU. The Bulls will need a strong running game if they want to hold the SMU offense (averages 38 points a game) in check.
It's been a rough year, there is no question about it. But despite the results, it is still the last time 18 seniors will suit up for the Bulls. Household names like Ryne Giddins, Julius Forte, and DeDe Lattimore among others will ever suit up in front of the home crowd in their collegiate careers. The seniors, despite the tough few years, are still playing hard and never giving up. I'm watching to see how many of them are going to rise up and play and leave it all out there. I think we will see some special performances out of Lattimore and others as they try to give the home crowd one last home win before leave Raymond James for the last time.
Who is the real Mike White?
Game one, 311 yards passing, 2 touchdowns. Game 2, 4 interceptions. In the first game, White faced a weaker defense, giving him a chance to throw the ball down the field. In game two with Memphis, a top 25 defense, he looked like a freshman again. Now, with 2 games under his belt, which is the real Mike White? The confident kid slinging ball all over the field like he did in Houston? Or the kid that looked shell-shocked and continually threw bad passes into heavy traffic when receivers failed to get open? I think we will see in-between with SMU. I think White will make plays but could struggle at times as he continues to learn.
Play for Pride
They are sick of losing. They are trying to find playmakers to make plays. We have heard it all from the players and coaches about how this team is trying to lay that foundation for the future and get more wins for the program, well here's a chance to do it. SMU is 4-5 and has a vaunted offense, but the Bulls have players, are at home on senior night, and have a fan base that is craving a win just as bad as they are. This team has nothing to lose, they need to stop playing with frustration or fear of making a mistake and just play football and let lose. They might lose, but they might as well go down swinging and having fun in the process.