The South Florida Bulls and Louisville Cardinals are both a win away from bowl eligibility, and they'll face off against one another in a Big East battle at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium.
Both teams have five wins and are tied for third place in the Big East standings with a 2-2 league record. This will mark the third straight game the Bulls have had more than a week to prepare, and so far they are 2-0 in that span. Last Wednesday, USF rallied for a 28-27 win over Rutgers.
On the other sideline, Louisville is coming off last weekend's 28-20 win at Syracuse. The win snapped the Cardinals' 11-game Big East road losing streak, which stretched back to 2007. Now, they are back home seeking consecutive wins for only the second time this season.
USF holds a 4-3 series edge over Louisville, with the home team having won all seven meetings.
USF senior running back Mo Plancher had quite a day against Rutgers, setting career highs in carries (21), rushing yards (135), receiving yards (45) and all-purpose yards (180) in the Bulls' win. On the season, he is averaging 62 rushing yards per game. Another presence in the Bulls' rushing attack has been the quarterback, sophomore B.J. Daniels, who eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards for his career against Rutgers. Daniels had modest passing numbers -- 10-of-17 attempts for 149 yards and two touchdowns -- but he did enough to get the victory. The clinching touchdown was actually scored by offensive tackle Jacob Sims, who became the first offensive lineman in school history to score a touchdown when he jumped on Plancher's fumble in the end zone to give USF a 28-27 lead with 9:33 to play in regulation.
Defensively, the Bulls are allowing only 19.6 points per game, which is the fifth-best mark in defense-dominated Big East Conference. This unit has several playmakers, and none showed up last week more so than senior Jacquian Williams, who was tabbed as the conference's Defensive Player of the Week. Williams had game and career highs of 11 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks to help guide USF to victory. His third-quarter sack backed the Scarlet Knights to their own 7-yard line to set up an eventual safety. His other sack came in the final minutes of the fourth quarter when Rutgers was driving for the potential go-ahead score. The Bulls' safety was recorded by junior Keith McCaskill, the team's first since the season-opener of the 2009 season.
It's not every day that a team can replace both its star quarterback and running back and still pull out a win. But Louisville did just that last week, despite the absences of quarterback Adam Froman (leg) and running back Bilal Powell (knee), the nation's fifth-leading rusher (133 ypg). Senior quarterback Justin Burke stepped in for Froman and completed 13-of-25 passes for 143 yards and two TDs. In the backfield, redshirt freshman Jeremy Wright stepped in for Bilal and carried 19 times for a career-high two TDs, the second of which gave the Cardinals the lead for good in the third quarter. For his efforts, Wright was named the Big East Offensive Player of the week. Froman and Powell are both considered questionable against USF, but if the Cardinals learned anything last week, it's that Burke and Wright are certainly capable of carrying the load.
Louisville's defense seems to get better and better every week. The win over Syracuse marked the third straight week the D held an opponent to less than 300 yards of total offense, as Syracuse managed just 256 yards. The Cardinals have also held their last three foes under 200 yards passing. Redshirt freshman Hakeem Smith led the way against Syracuse, posting a career-high 13 tackles. Sophomore Daniel Brown had six stops, including two for loss and a sack that caused a fumble. On the season, Louisville ranks 19th nationally in both total defense (308.8 ypg) and scoring defense (18.9 ppg). The Cardinals have posted two shutouts on the year, the first coming in a 56-0 win over Memphis on October 9th and the other coming two weeks later in a 26-0 win over Connecticut.
This has all the makings of an intense battle between two Big East teams fighting for a bowl bid. Both teams have solid defenses, but give a slight edge to the Cardinals who showed plenty of fight without two of their biggest stars.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Louisville 24, South Florida 20