NCAA Football

College Football Week 11: South Florida vs. Louisville

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South Florida Bulls at Louisville Cardinals
Date – Saturday, November 13, 2010
Location – Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium
Time – 12:00 pm
TV – nationally on ESPNU. Rob Stone (play-by-play) David Pollack (color)
Radio – 840 AM WHAS. Paul Rogers (play-by-play), Stefan LeFors (analyst), Doug Ormay (sidelines)

The Cardinals slim BIG EAST title hopes got a boost yesterday as previously unbeaten in BIG EAST play Pittsburgh began their typical late season swoon and fell at Connecticut. With a home game versus West Virginia and a road battle at Cincinnati left, it is possible that if the Cardinals win out they will play in a BCS game in Charlie Strong’s first season. In order to do that, Louisville will first have to take care of business in the The Oven and defeat South Florida on Saturday.

Should the Cardinals emerge victorious, they will also qualify for their first bowl game since the 2007 Orange Bowl victory over Wake Forest. Louisville finished bowl eligible for the 2007 season, but were not selected for a bowl game. The BIG EAST has since added another bowl tie-in, thus a sixth win would likely guarantee the Cards a chance to play another game.

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From Louisville’s perspective, no one is quite sure what to expect. The entire Prime Meridian of their offensive front is banged up. Quarterback Adam Froman and Running Back Bilal Powell both missed the win at Syracuse, and starting center Mario Benavides got hurt late in the game last week. Powell was just named one of the ten finalists for the 2010 Doak Walker Award, given to the nation’s top running back, and is questionable for tomorrow. Hopefully he can return to the field and help this team and program continue its return to the national spotlight. If not it will be red-shirt freshman running back and reigning BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Week Jeremy Wright who gets the carries. Froman is out so Senior QB Justin Burke will once again fill in.

The all-time series between these two squads is led by South Florida, 4-3, with Louisville winning all three meetings at home, and the Bulls capturing all four games in Tampa including last year, 34-22. Coming off their first road win since Cincinnati in 2007 last week, the Cards will now try and win back-to-back BIG EAST games for the first time since the 2006 season, a span of 25 games. 

It has been defense getting the job done for Louisville as of late, holding opponenets to under 300 yards of total offense in their last three games. This week it will have its hands full with trying to make tackles at the point of attack, as South Florida is a run-first team. The Bulls’ Mo Plancher and Demetris Murray are eighth and ninth in the Big East in rushing, and quarterback B.J. Daniels also does a lot of damage with his feet.

Leading the Cardinal charge on defense will be red-shirt freshman safety Hakeem Smith. Smith led the team with 13 tackles in the victory over Syracuse. He’s now leading the team with 60 tackles on the season, and has had at least eight stops during the last three contests. The Louisville defense as a unit is 17th in the nation in holding opponents into 3-and-outs, forcing 3.56 per game. The Bulls’ defensive unit is no slouch, they rank 29th in the nation, giving up just 329.0 yards of total offense. They also bring the thunder, ranking 16th in the nation in sacks with 2.88 per game.

The Bulls are coming into The Oven already pre-heated. They won a 38-30 shootout in Cincy two weeks ago, and squeaked out a 28-27 home win over Rutgers last week to get right back into the thick of the BIG EAST race. The win over Rutgers last week also marked the South Florida program’s 100th victory, making them the fastest BIG EAST school to reach that plateau in terms of games played (100-60).

I think the key to this game is B.J. Daniels. He is going to have to remain patient and not force throws or else South Florida will have a hard time keeping up with the Cards. Daniels has thrown nine interceptions in USF’s three losses, compared to only two in their five wins. As Louisville learned last year, Daniels can also be deadly with his feet. He has rushed for 240 yards and four scores this year, and in the Bulls’ win over the Cardinals in Tampa last season, Daniels threw for 304 yards and rushed for 141 yards in the 34-22 win.

While South Florida does feature the 8th and 9th leading rushers in the BIG EAST, they had struggled running the ball for a few weeks, up until the Rutgers game. In that game, Moise Plancher had a career-best performance, rushing for 135 yards in the win. He also tacked on 45 yards receiving. He leads the Bulls in rushing with 498 yards on 101 carries, an average of nearly 5-yards-per-carry.

Louisville’s defense has struggled giving up the big play and will need to focus in on WR Dontavia Bogan. The Bulls’ Bogan leads the team with 29 catches for 432 yards and three TADATs!, despite missing one game due to injury. If they focus too much on stopping the run and B.J. Daniels, Bogan could easily break loose for a couple big plays during the course of the game.

Point to pontificate upon: USF’s Skip Holtz and Louisville’s Charlie Strong have several ties, including serving as offensive and defensive coordinators, respectively, at South Carolina under Skip’s dad, Big Lou Holtz.

So Lou knows Charlie’s D and Charlie knows Lou’s O. Will it matter? No.

Louisville 28, South Florida 24

I don't blame Brett Favre