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The Bulls are back in action as they host 18th ranked Louisville for the homecoming game. USF sits at 2-4 (2-0) and are coming off of a bye week, giving them time to rest and plan for the big showdown against the Cardinals. Here are the 5 things I'll be watching during the game that could decide the outcome.
Where is the USF offense?
I've said it before and will continue to say it, our offense is offensive to watch. The Bulls are ranked 121st in the nation in total offense and average just 16.2 PPG while the Cardinals average 40.1 PPG and give up just 11 (allowed 38 to UCF).
It was announced that Bobby Eveld will get the start again for the Bulls with Steven Bench still healing. Eveld has struggled, completing just 38% of his passes this season. He will have to rely on the running game to pick up the slack and it may not be Marcus Shaw who is still coming back from his hamstring injury, suffered 3 weeks ago. Mike Pierre (39 for 116), Darius Tice (18 for 76) and Willie Davis (8 for 38) will have to carry the load and help move the sticks for the offense if Eveld struggles again.
Eveld just has to manage the game again, make smart throws and turn the ball over against a very fast and aggressive defense. We should see a steady running game and hopefully keep Bridgewater and their offense sitting on the sidelines.
Bulls defense takes on Teddy Bridgewater
Teddy Bridgewater may be the best quarterback in the country and will give the Bulls secondary and Coach Bresnahan nightmares if they allow him to sit back and pick us apart. Bridgewater is 152 out of 214 attempts this season for 2213 yards including 20 touchdowns and just 2 interceptions (yikes). Bridgewater is the complete package, size, strength, and has an incredible arm that can torch any defense. Mix in a solid running game with players like Dominic Brown, Senorise Perry and Mike Dyer, Bridgewater has weapons and will be a pain to deal with all game.
It will be up to the big playmakers on the USF defense to step up and take him out of his game. Dede Lattimore has 56 tackles, Mark Joyce has 2 huge interceptions and Aaron Lynch got his first sack against Uconn. It will take a huge effort from all of them to get pressure on Bridgewater, throw off his timing, and make plays happen. The defense has been our best offense this season and will have to do it again in this one if the Bulls want to stand a snowball's chance.
Special teams must come up big
If the Bulls' defense can't win the game, then it will come down to the special teams units to get the job done for the Bulls.
Mattias Ciabatti has been very reliable this season, averaging 41 yards per kick. He will have to be at this best and pin the Cardinals back deep every time he kicks it to give the defense the best chance they can to get turnovers and cause trouble.
Marvin Kloss, the boss, has been nearly perfect for USF, hitting 9 out 10 attempts this year and sending kickoffs out of the endzone on the regular. The Bulls will need his strong leg to connect on every field goal attempt if they are to stand a chance. I want to see how accurate he is and how often Coach Taggart will turn to him when the Bulls get in range.
How motivated will the Cardinals be?
The Cardinals were ranked in the top 10, had hopes for a BCS title game on their minds, and then they lost on Thursday night and put themselves out of the national title debate.
How will they respond? In the past after a defeat, the Cardinals have been historically slow to get going again, often falling in the second game. The Bulls have had two weeks to prepare and will get a noon kickoff to help them just a bit, maybe catchy a sleep Louisville team on Saturday.
Which team will show up for the Cardinals? Will they come out flat and uninterested in this game? I pray so. Or will they come out angry, steamed, and ready to take it to the Bulls who just don't have the depth and skill players to hang with Louisville for a full game without making huge plays. Let's hope the hangover after their loss follows them to Tampa and the Bulls are able to take advantage.
Just find a way to win this game
This team continues to confuse, anger, frustrate, and destroy what I know about football. Two wins without scoring an offensive touchdown. Lucky breaks, calls going our way, incredible defensive plays, the list goes on for the ways the Bulls have won games considering the offense is awful and painful to watch right now.
Can they keep it going? They are confident, believing and not worrying about anything right now. It's not pretty, but the wins are nice to see in the stat book after the games. The Bulls are facing incredible odds in this game and are about a 20 point underdog at home for this game, but stranger things have happened. They will have to play the best game of their lives in this one and need a lot of luck to go their way if they want to stand a chance, but then again, stranger things have happened.