The USF Bulls (4-2, 0-2) look to end a two game losing streak as they host the Cincinnati Bearcats (5-1, 1-0) today at Raymond James Stadium. Kickoff is at noon and will be televised locally on WTSP Channel 28 and nationally on the Big East Network as well as ESPN3.com. For those unable to watch the game, Jim Louk and Mark Robinson will have the call for you on 970 WFLA.
With West Virginia losing to Syracuse yesterday, the Bulls have a chance to get right back into the Big East championship race if they are able to beat the only undefeated team left in the conference. To win today, the Bulls will have to stop Cincinnati RB Isaiah Pead and the Bearcats running game. Pead is averaging 104 YPG this season for Cincinnati, and has a similar running style to Pitt RB Ray Graham, who gashed the USF defense for over 200 yards 3 weeks ago. If Pead gets going, it'll open up the passing game for Zach Collaros and the UC passing game.
Speaking of the passing game, after having a strong junior season, Collaros has taken a step back in production averaging 197 YPG through the air with 11 TD and 4 INT. A big reason is that Pead has been so good, but another is that Collaros doesn't have the great receivers like last year. Anthony McClung, D.J. Woods, and Kenbrell Thompson are each capable receivers, but the three haven't been able to replicate the numbers that Armon Binns had last season.
Offensively, the Bulls have to make sure they hold onto the ball. The UC defense is 2nd in the country in turnover margin, forcing 19 turnovers already this season. Leading the way for the Bearcats defense is LB J.K. Schaffer, who has a case to be Big East Defensive Player of the Year. Schaffer's stat line makes you do a double with 46 tackles, 3 interceptions, 6 tackles for loss, 2 sacks, and a fumble recovery. Helping free Schaffer to make those plays are ST Derek Wolfe and DE Dan Giordano. The starting duo have wrecked havoc on the line of scrimmage all season, netting a combined 43 tackles, 15 TFL, 9 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, and 2 fumble recoveries. The battle between those two and the will be a fun one to watch today.
As the guys at Voodoo Five mentioned yesterday, the only quality offense that Cincinnati has played this year torched them for 45 points and 531 total yards. Dominique Battle and Camerron Cheatem are a solid pair at cornerback, but they can be beaten deep against an attacking passing attack. If guys like Evan Landi and A.J. Love can compliment Sterling Griffin with catching a couple of balls downfield on play action, it will keep the UC defense honest and give Darrell Scott and Demetris Murray the holes needed for a couple of big runs.