Game 12 is here. Who could have imagined that in a season after home losses to Florida International and Marshall that U of L would be a win away from a chance at a BCS berth? The squad full of underclassmen and guys that have played early in their careers and switched positions all over the field experienced a lot of growing pains this season. But, despite the ups and downs and moving around, the Cards are on the cusp of earning a bid to the second BCS game in school history, and first since 2006.
It is widely known that Louisville has never beaten USF in Tampa, losing by an average margin of 21 points. The schools have been in the same conference since 2003 (C-USA in 2003 and 2004, Big East from 2005 to the present). Charlie Strong expects things to be different on this trip to Tampa, however, with the possibility of a conference championship on the line. He knows Skip Holtz’s Bulls are not going to lay down for the Cards, despite their disappointing 1-4 Big East record. They are but a win away from bowl eligibility as Louisville was last week.
South Florida’s one conference win came in the form of a 37-17 beat down of Syracuse in the Carrier Dome. They actually started the season 4-0 with the big road win at Notre Dame and home wins over Ball State, Florida A&M and UTEP. But, the Big East has not been as kind. The Bulls lost their first conference game to Pittsburgh 44-17. They lost their next three conference games by a total of 12 points to UConn, Cincinnati and Rutgers before beating Syracuse.
Louisville’s offensive line could have a tough time protecting Teddy Bridgewater and making holes for Dominique Brown and Victor Anderson. USF ranks second in the nation in sacks and first in tackles for loss. The Bull’s defense is led by redshirt freshman linebacker DeDe Lattimore with his 76 tackles (12.5 for loss) and two forced fumbles. Lattimore also has an interception.
It is still unknown whether or not junior quarterback B.J. Daniels will be ready to lead USF’s 29th-ranked offense after suffering a right-shoulder injury during the Bulls’ 6-3 loss to Miami on Saturday. USF’s second option at QB is sophomore Bobby Eveld, a former walk-on. In limited action this year, Eveld has completed 17 of 32 passes with three interceptions and no touchdowns. Daniels has completed 194 of 321 passes for 2,359 yards and twelve scores, to only six interceptions.
USF’s has a bevy of other playmakers. Each with over 100 carries, running backs Darrell Scott and Demetris Murray have five and seven touchdowns, respectively. Daniels also has 122 carries from the QB position for 578 yards and five scores. Sophomore wide receiver Sterling Griffin leads the team with his 40 catches and 493 receiving yards. Griffin, along with receivers Victor Marc, Andre Davis and Lindsey Lamar, have each caught two touchdown passes from Daniels. Deonte Welch, also of note, has 22 receptions for 304 yards, but no scores.
Given the circumstances and the possibility of a BCS berth via one of a plethora of scenarios, this is the most important regular season Big East game for the Cards since 2006. Regardless of what happens, it’s refreshing to know that the foundation of the program has been laid for at least the next two seasons, but there’s still plenty to play for in 2011, and hopefully in January 2012.
Date – Friday, November 25, 2011
Location – Raymond James Stadium (65,857), Tampa, Fla.
Time – 11:00 a.m. ET
TV –ESPN2, Dave Lamont (pbp), Ray Bentley (color)
Radio – Nelligan Sports Network, WKRD 790, 101.7 FM, SIRIUS Ch. 85, XM Ch. 85, Paul Rogers (pbp), Tony Stallings (color) and Doug Ormay (sidelines)
Series – 5-3 USF