The South Florida Bulls go into this weekend’s showdown in Louisville, Kentucky coming off back to back conference wins, pulling them to within one game of conference leading Pitt. What started as a horrific looking start to the Skip Holtz era, the season, and conference play is now beginning to look like a season that the Bulls can still salvage. With Pittsburgh still ahead on the schedule USF actually still has a shot at winning the conference. However, I in no way am making that bold prediction. USF hasn’t shown me enough to drag me onto that bandwagon yet. Defeating Louisville on Saturday would be another step in that direction though.
- Louisville’s Offense vs. South Florida’s Defense- USF’s defense continues to rank in the top 25 in points allowed, giving up 19.6 points per games. This Louisville offense isn’t exactly potent, averaging 26.8 points per game which ranks 65th in the nation, but the ground attack is very solid. The Cardinals average 193.4 yards rushing per game. The team’s leading rusher is Bilal Powell. He’s averaging a massive 7 yards a pop when he gets the ball handed off to him and has racked up 1067 yards through 9 games. He’s also scored nine touchdowns rushing and added another receiving. Powell is undoubtedly Louisville’s go-to offensive playmaker. He has a knee injury right now and his status for the game is uncertain, which would be good news for the Bulls, but if he is able to play the he should be USF’s main concern to contain. The backup running backs Victor Anderson and Jeremy Wright can get the job done as well if Powell is unable to play. The Cardinals’ offense would certainly lose a spark, but Anderson has averaged 5 yards per carry and Wright scored two touchdowns last week. The Bulls have been very good stopping the run of late and only surrendered 78 yards rushing to Rutgers last week so something has to give here. Louisville is going to go with backup quarterback Justin Burke again after a solid game last week and starter Adam Froman still not 100%. An inexperienced quarterback playing against this impressive South Florida defense will be another key matchup to watch.
- The Bull’s O vs. the Card’s D- USF’s running game was solid last week against Rutgers despite the Murray injury thanks to a career day by Mo Plancher. He gained 135 yards on 21 carries. The South Florida offense has been anything but explosive this season, but the last two games it has done enough to get wins, including an impressive performance against Cinci. The key in this matchup as it seems to be every week is B.J. Daniels and his ability to make plays while keeping turnovers to a minimum. The running game must be solid to control time of possession and open up the play action pass for Daniels to allow him to be successful. B.J. has done a much better job of taking care of the ball in the team’s last two wins but this is a strong Louisville defense that he will face. The Cardinal’s rank 18th in points allowed, giving up just under 19 points per game. The Bulls’ offense is going to have to earn everything they get. I don’t see this Louisville defense giving them anything cheaply. If Daniels goes back to his early-season turnover tendencies then it could be a long game.
This game looks like it could be another defense struggle, much like the Rutgers game from a week ago. I like both defenses a lot as well as both running games. The advantage that sticks out most is the playmaking ability at the quarterback position. B.J. Daniels can make things happen in ways that Burke can’t and that could turn out to be the difference. I see B.J. making one or two spectacular plays that make the difference.
Prediction:USF 24 Louisville-17