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Good Morning From South Florida

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When the UC basketball team was dominating Conference USA, one of the most enjoyable parts of my job was going into a big road game as "the villain" and leaving town with a win.  I always got a huge kick out of seeing fans at places like Charlotte and Memphis foaming at the mouth when Cincinnati took the court . . .  only to be slumped in their seats on the verge of tears after yet another loss to the Bearcats.

 

In two-and-a-half years, Brian Kelly has created similar "road rage" for the UC football program.

 

I've been in South Florida since Saturday (we made the trip a family vacation) and I can tell you that USF fans are treating this as one of the biggest home games in school history.  A local landmark was illuminated in USF "green and gold" on Wednesday night, and a crowd of more than 60,000 is expected at Raymond James Stadium.

 

As you might expect, Mardy Gilyard's comment that UC's coaches were "licking their chops" to face former Bearcat defensive coordinator Joe Tresey is getting a ton of play, but I think the Bulls have said a few juicy things as well.  Consider this nugget that appeared in a recent Brian Bennett story on ESPN.com:

 

"I don't feel as if these guys have been challenged up front like we are going to do on Thursday," South Florida linebacker Kion Wilson said. "They haven't been hit and been physically abused yet. That's what we plan on going out there and doing."

 

While the Bearcats are ranked in the Top 10 for the first time in school history, we almost forget that USF has cracked the Top 10 in each of the last two years before tailing off.  In 2007, the Bulls climbed to #2 before losing three straight games.  Last year, USF peaked at #10 before dropping four out of five.  I asked Coach Kelly if the Bulls are better equipped for the long haul this year:

 

"It's hard to say," BK told me.  "I think we're both at that point where we're starting to answer some questions about our football teams.  They've had a great road win against Florida State, and I know they had a similar win in '07 at Auburn, but this team offensively is built to be more consistent.  Matt Grothe was a great player and they're sorely going to miss him, but he had his ups and downs.  B.J. Daniels is not that kind of player and they don't call the game the same way.  I would tend to believe that this is a football team that's going to play pretty consistently the whole year."

 

Perhaps the biggest storyline going into the game (expect it to be pummeled to death on ESPN) is the presence of Joe Tresey on USF's coaching staff.  I asked BK if Cincinnati had to make any significant changes because of Tresey's familiarity with UC's system and personnel.

 

"It's business as usual," Kelly told me.  "You don't tweak things in your system because you have a coach on the other team that's been with your staff.  That happens a lot - more than you think - in the SEC there are coordinators bouncing around all sorts of programs.  You may change a signal here or there, but you are who you are going into the sixth week of the season."

 

It should be a great game and a blast to broadcast.  We'll have the radio call beginning with the pre-game show at 7:00 on 700 WLW, XM 102, and Sirius 126.

 

I'd love to hear from you.  The address is dhoard@pawsox.com.

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