After suffering its first four game losing streak in school history, the USF Bulls (4-4, 0-4) travel to upstate New York to take on the Syracuse Orange (5-4, 1-3) tonight in a Big East showdown. Kickoff is slated for 8:00 PM and will be broadcasted nationally on ESPN2. If you can't get to a TV, Jim Louk and Mark Robinson will have the call for you on 970 WFLA, and will also be streaming on ESPN3.com.
In Syracuse's 13-9 win in Tampa last year in Tampa, the Orange were hyper aggressive on defense, blitzing on almost every play. The Bulls couldn't figure out who was coming, and it was by far USF's worst game offensively last year. The guys at Voodoo Five have their Five Keys to the Game up, and controlling the line of scrimmage is #1 on their list.
The offensive line didn't block much of anything in last year's meeting. The Bulls averaged just 2.6 yards per carry, and had serious issues picking up the Orange blitz when they were forced to throw. It was their worst game of the year, by far, and this could be one of this year's worst games unless they're able to open up running lanes and keep the pass rush from overwhelming them.
After a strong start to the season for both teams, USF and Syracuse have struggled mightily in conference play. Jamie DeVriend of Voodoo Five talked with Sean Keeley of Troy Nunes is an Absolute Magician about what's going on with the Orange, and Keeley said that other than the West Virginia game they've just been as inconsistent as the Bulls.
There is a good football team in there. It shows up every so often. Ryan Nassib is a competent quarterback and he's got an offense loaded with weapons. Chandler Jones anchors a talented defense capable of making big plays. The pieces just don't come together often for the Orange. And we're still trying to figure out why.
If there is one match-up to watch for both teams, its how each secondary will do tonight. Both USF and Syracuse have had injury problems in the back, and whoever is able to make the most plays in the back should have the upperhand tonight.
One more injury note to watch is on USF's leading rusher Darrell Scott. Scott suffered a concussion and a sprained wrist in the 4th quarter of last week's game against Rutgers and will be a game-time decision tonight. If Scott is unable to go, Demetris Murray will get the start while reserve Marcus Shaw will serve as the primary backup.
For more on the Bulls, head over to our USF site Voodoo Five.