South Florida (3-3) at Cincinnati (3-3)
Friday, October 22, 8:00 p.m
(Sports Network) Two teams moving in opposite directions clash at Nippert Stadium this Friday, as the South Florida Bulls tussle with the Cincinnati Bearcats in Big East play.
The Bulls enter the contest in need of a victory, as they have dropped each of their last two outings, both against Big East members. After suffering a surprising 13-9 setback at home to Syracuse, USF was topped 20-6 by nationally-ranked West Virginia last Thursday. The team now sits at an even 3-3 overall and still has a difficult road ahead.
The Bearcats, meanwhile, opened defense of their Big East title with a 35-27 victory over Louisville exactly a week ago. Cincinnati, which has actually captured the last two conference championships, has now 13 consecutive Big East games dating back to 2008. Overall, the squad has won two in row to pull to a level 3-3 on the year.
Cincinnati owns a 5-2 edge in the all-time series with USF and the Bearcats have won the past four meetings, including a 34-17 decision last season.
The offense for USF continues to struggle, as the unit managed only 202 total yards in a loss to WVU last week. QB BJ Daniels is a big reason for this unit's lack of success, as he has yet to prove capable. The versatile gunslinger passed for just 119 yards with three INTs last week, and he has now tossed 10 picks against four TDs on the season. That obviously isn't a good ratio and if Daniels continues to the turn the ball over, don't be surprised to see him replaced. The ground attack has churned out an average of 157.7 ypg to help Daniels, but last week USF managed only 65 rushing yards on 29 carries. Moise Plancher had 63 of those yards on 11 carries, raising his total to a team-high 352 yards for the season.
The defense has clearly been the strength of USF this season and the unit turned in another strong effort last week despite the outcome. The Bulls held WVU's potent attack to just 298 total yards, including only 79 rushing on 33 carries. USF is permitting just 300.5 total ypg, so last week's effort was right in line with what the defense has done all season long. The defense added three sacks to bring its total to 17 for the year, but the unit failed to force WVU into a single turnover and that was a disappointment. Devekeyan Lattimore paced the Bulls with 11 stops and his first sack, and he now ranks second on the team with 30 tackles for the year.
The Bearcats are really finding their rhythm on offense, as they rolled up 453 total yards in a victory over Louisville this past week. QB Zach Collaros threw a career-best five TDs passes, including three to Armon Binns, and he finished with 275 yards and two picks on 18-of-28 pass attempts. It was another strong performance from Collaros, who is one of the top QBs in the league with 17 TDs against just three INTs for the season. Binns, who ended with eight catches for 175 yards, now has 32 receptions for 525 yards and seven scores for the season. DJ Woods is another explosive weapon for the Bearcats and he tops the roster with 550 receiving yards, while ranking second with 31 catches and six TDs. He hauled in a pair of TDs versus Louisville last week, but left with a concussion in the third quarter. He is listed as questionable for this weekend. The ground game was also effective against Louisville, as Isaiah Pead ran for 145 yards on just 21 carries. Pead has now rushed for 547 yards behind an impressive 8.8 yard per carry average, helping the Bearcats to rush for 178.5 ypg as a team.
Cincinnati had one of the top ranked run defenses around heading into last week's matchup, but the unit was gashed for 228 yards and two scores on the ground by Louisville. It was quite a surprising result and despite the numerous yards allowed, the Bearcats are still permitting just 108.7 rushing ypg for the season. The defense gave up another 179 yards through the air to Louisville and failed to force a single turnover. Those are two areas of concern for the Bearcats, who have recorded a mere five takeaways, while surrendering 257.3 passing ypg this season. JK Schaffer has been this unit's top player with 56 stops to his credit and that includes a seven-tackle performance last game.
The Bearcats are facing a tough defense this week, but Collaros has enough weapons to make things happen. Plus, USF's offense doesn't have much going for it right now, so Cincinnati should be able to control that side of the ball as well.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Cincinnati 31, South Florida 14