Hello everyone. Hope you're enjoying your morning tailgate, or your couch, or standing in line for crap at the mall. If you've carved out time to watch the USF-Louisville game today, here's what you should be looking for:
1. If Bobby Eveld is playing, then Darrell Scott has to be a factor. If B.J. Daniels can't play, that takes a big chunk of their usual running game with them. You saw that as soon as Eveld came in to relieve the injured Daniels, the base running game fell apart almost completely. Eveld is not fast enough for defenses to respect as a ball carrier, so that wipes all the zone reads and veers out of the playbook. That means USF has to have a more traditional running game, and they'll need Scott to be able to push the pile and take pressure off Eveld.
2. Keep swarming the run on defense. You've probably heard the stat that says the Bulls lead all of FBS in tackles for loss. Last week they held Miami's Lamar Miller, who long since exceeded the 1,000-yard mark on the season, to just 50 yards on 20 carries. You figure that with freshman Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback, Louisville wants to play the same way USF does if Eveld has to play. Run it to keep yourselves out of situations where a shaky/unproven passer will have to come through for you. (The stats bear this strategy out -- Bridgewater has yet to throw more than 30 passes in a game.) The Cardinals don't have one go-to running back like they did last year with Bilal Powell, but whether it's Victor Anderson or Dominique Brown, it will be c
3. For God's sake, do something good on special teams. Except for the semi-block of a Miami field goal last week, It's been over a month since USF did anything really positive on special teams. Stop hitting 28-yard moonshot punts and giving away field position. (The Bulls have still allowed negative punt return yards on the season, which is one of the most bogus stats I've ever seen.) Try to run a kickoff back for more than 17 yards. (We haven't talked nearly enough about how Lindsey Lamar isn't even close to the same player he was last year.) Block a punt or something. We all know this is not going to be an offensive bonanza. You'll need some easy points if you can get them.
4. Deal with the pressure. It's no secret what the Cardinals do on defense, and if Eveld has to play it's going to be dialed up even higher. They're going to blitz, and they might also test USF's young wide receivers with press coverage (which would also help disrupt the bubble screens and hitches that the Bulls like to run to diffuse a pass rush). The receivers and the offensive line really need to be ready to go today or they're going to continue to struggle moving the ball.
5. Mind the excitement gap. This game is HUGE for Louisville. They can clinch a tie for the Big East title with a win, and become the hands-down worst team ever to go to a BCS game if things go their way. Plus they have a bunch of Florida kids on their team who get to play in front of their families and their friends. (This game means more for recruiting than you think, by the way.) Meanwhile, USF's chance of going to a worthwhile bowl disappeared weeks ago. It's going to be 11:00am on the day after Thanksgiving, and I'm pretty much guaranteeing one of the sorriest home crowds in years today. (Who still don't know the words to the fight song.) Senior Day isn't until next week. Oh, and there are rumors that their coach might leave. Somewhere, somehow, the Bulls have to find some motivation for this game. Just waving bowl eligibility in front of them probably isn't going to do it, because I think that means more for the coaches and the fans than the individual players.