UConn comes to Raymond James Stadium on a Friday night, September 19th and are low-hanging fruit if I've ever seen it. If the Bulls do not take advantage of this game, it will be difficult to find many more wins this season.
USF will hopefully have few problems beating Western Carolina in Week 1, but Maryland and NC State are definitely going to give them a hard time. Then comes UConn, followed by Wisconsin. It's probable USF will go into the UConn game with a 1-2 record (unless an upset makes it 2-1) before traveling to Wisconsin in Week 5. You can bet the farm on Wisconsin winning in Madison, so my heart sinks at the thought of traveling to up there following three consecutive losses. However even if the Bulls lose back to back games against Maryland and NC State, they can recover and gain some confidence by beating UConn before facing the Badgers. A win against UConn will put them at 2-2, possibly even 3-1, and would really help the morale going into Wisconsin and tough conference play for the rest of the season.
There are a lot of reasons that USF should beat UConn again this year. The Huskies have a new head coach in Bob Diaco who has never been a head coach before. He played linebacker for Iowa in the ‘90s, got a lot of experience as a defensive coordinator at Cincinnati and Notre Dame over the last several years, and he seems like a nice person. This being his first head coaching gig he will hit a lot of bumps in the road, including his game against USF.
In case you missed the Huskies' tragic saga last season, head coach Paul Pasqualoni led them to four straight losses and was fired. He was replaced by offensive coordinator T.J. Weist, who is a friend of Willie Taggart's from his Western Kentucky days. Weist ended up getting three wins for the Huskies by the end of the season. Normally I would laugh at that, but USF only had two. Weist’s first game coaching was against Taggart's Bulls, who won without even scoring an offensive touchdown.
For UConn this is a rebuilding year to say the least. There are three quarterbacks vying for the starting spot, but based on last year’s performance, Casey Cochran is likely to start the season behind center (update: Cochran was named the starter yesterday. He also has a fantastic mullet). The Huskies will probably get wins against Stony Brook and Temple, but any others would take some luck. UConn has had losing seasons for the last three years and USF has not lost to UConn since that disaster of a game in 2011 (if you don't remember, watch a downcast Skip Holtz recap it here).
If the downward trajectory of the Huskies is not reason enough that USF should beat UConn again, there are also the player sizes listed on UConn’s depth chart. If they are the same players on the field September 19th, the Bulls should be able to control both sides of the ball.
On defense, USF’s Todd Chandler has twelve pounds on UConn’s center and 35 pounds on their guards. Derrick Calloway and Elkino Watson are about the same size as the UConn guards. Defensive end Eric Lee, along with linebackers Reshard Cliett and Auggie Sanchez, ought to be able to sprint past the big UConn tackles to make a sack or two. UConn’s tailback should also get popped a few times by USF’s linebackers (all are taller and at least ten pounds heavier).
USF’s entire defense is taller than Huskies starting wide out DeShon Foxx, so covering him should be no problem. The only real danger on offense comes from senior wide receiver Geremy Davis. He’s 6-3/216 and had 1000+ yards and three touchdowns last fall. This is the man to cover in the secondary. Jamie Byrd will hopefully be all over him.
On offense, USF definitely has the size advantage. On average, the Bulls’ offensive line is 15 pounds heavier than the Huskies’ defensive line. USF backs are equal in size to UConn linebackers and USF receivers are two inches taller than UConn cornerbacks. Just the size advantage on the line should give the Bulls’ quarterback an extra second or two to find an open receiver, who will most likely be taller and heavier than the nearest defender. I can already see the hands on the hips of the fatigued UConn defense during the fourth quarter.
If the UConn game is close enough to come down to kicking, USF definitely has the advantage there as well. UConn has Bobby Puyol, a sophomore who kicked one field goal two years ago. USF has Marvin Kloss, who can kick field goals in his sleep.
This game will be a bellwether for the rest of the season. It will be really tough playing Maryland and NC State and afterwards, USF will need to bounce back. If the Bulls don’t extend the winning streak against the Huskies to three years, it looks like disaster for the rest of the season. A matchup like this, against an inexperienced coach with scrawny players, is simply a must win.