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B.J. AND THE BEAR(CATS)

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(Collaros before his 75-yd TD run at USF/Courtesy ESPN)


WHO: A popular rock quartet known for power anthems like "Won't Get Fooled Again" and "Baba O'Reilly".

OK SMART GUY, WHO'S PLAYING: UC and USF (South Florida Bulls from Tampa, FL)

WHERE: Back in the friendly confines of Nippert Stadium

WHEN:  Friday (yes, FRIDAY) 10/22

KICKOFF: Best be in your seat by 8 p.m.

THE SERIES: UC leads 5-2

LAST TIME: A tad over a year ago, UC won in Tampa 34-17.


      Here we go, Friday Night Lights again!

      Only this time, the venue is Nippert Stadium where the Bearcats and Bulls hope to carve into the high school football attendance numbers for the night. Like it or not, when ESPN tells you to suit up Friday night, you suit up Friday night.

      What early on probably looked like an intriguing match-up between two exciting quarterbacks in UC's Zach Collaros and USF's B.J. Daniels is now a contest to see who goes above .500. One year ago, this was the #8 Bearcats against the 21st-ranked Bulls.

      UC won the game thanks to Collaros subbing for the injured Tony Pike and running for 132 yards and two touchdowns. 63,000 plus were on hand to cheer South Florida into the national spotlight, instead Collaros gave the Bulls a dose of their own medicine with a 75-yard touchdown romp from the QB position.

      B.J. Daniels certainly gave the Bearcats fits that night, but it was Collaros out of the bullpen for the victory and some even argued that UC should stick with the sophomore over senior Tony Pike. Of course, after the Pitt win in the snow, everyone claimed to be long-time Tony Pike supporters through thick and thin.

      Fast forward a year and both teams have new coaches. Butch Jones is here and Skip Holtz (rumored to be a candidate here also) is there. With both, comes slight changes in philosophies and styles in both teams.

      If you follow trends, you'd have to say UC's adapting to Jones better than USF's adapting to Holtz. The Bearcats almost beat the #1 BCS team in Oklahoma, and then lit up Miami (OH) and Louisville. That's 109 points in the last three tilts.

      On the other hand, USF did beat Florida Atlantic 31-3 back on 10/2, but since then they've tallied just nine points in a loss to Syracuse and six in the West Virginia defeat. So, UC's outscored them 109-46 the last three times out.

      Trends or not, a 3-3 record does not put you in a position of supremacy over another 3-3 team, especially one from talent-rich Florida. The Bulls lost to the in-state Gators 38-14, but much like the Miami Redhawks, the Bulls hung with the boys in Gainesville for awhile.

The message there is, they won't be overcome by a large crowd and they have faced decent competition.

      As I always mention in these contests, I have degrees from both schools. I'm proud of what USF has accomplished in football. However, a quick tour of my basement and my wardrobe would show you where my heart is and that's with the college that gave me my first degree.

      As unbiased as I possibly can, I shall now break down my two collegiate alma maters....


CINCINNATI OFFENSE VS. SOUTH FLORIDA DEFENSE


Last year USF had to prepare for Tony Pike's aerial attack and they couldn't stop the lanky senior from throwing a pair of touchdown passes before he left the game injured. Then, when Zach Collaros came in he added a wrinkle the Bulls weren't prepared for and he made them pay twice with his feet. Now, you have the threat of Zach on the ground, plus the possibility that he just might burn you for five touchdown tosses like he did Louisville. Assuming D.J. Woods is healthy, the one-two punch of Woods and Armon Binns is tough on anybody. Let's face it, when Marcus Barnett (who caught 13 TD passes as a freshman) is an afterthought, your top two receivers must be good. Also, a healthy Alex Hoffman at right tackle should pave the way for Isaiah Pead to run for 100-plus yards again which is something the Bulls didn't have to game plan for last year.


The USF defense has played respectably outside of allowing Florida 38 points (most of which came late). Holding West Virginia to 20 in Morgantown is really not all that bad and no other opponent has even reached that mark. The Bulls are young and will only get better led by sophomore LB Sam Barrington the tackle leader. Senior DE Craig Marshall is the run stopper with 6.5 TFL, four sacks and an interception.


NOD: The UC offense seems to be hitting its stride and the home field advantage always weighs heavy here. The effectiveness of the running game with Pead has opened a lot of things up.


CINCINNATI DEFENSE VS. SOUTH FLORIDA OFFENSE


Contain B.J. Daniels. That's really the key to the whole game. If you let Daniels scramble for big yards or elude tackles in the backfield, you will soon pay. Senior Mo Plancher is usually the "go to" RB, but sophomore Demetris Murray can also be a threat. On the receiving end, Daniels favors senior WR Dontavia Bogan, while on the other end Evan Landi can make plays.


The UC defense is much improved from last season when Daniels successfully eluded them time and time again. Getting Wes Richardson back in the defensive backfield should help immensely and the unit as whole had some very impressive moments at Louisville. Hopefully, Chazz Anderson can imitate a feisty B.J. Daniels in practice (or whomever is selected for that role).


NOD: To me, it looks like the Skip Holtz system is discouraging B.J. Daniels from trying to win the game with his feet. Much like Collaros, it looks like the coaching staff wants him to put the ball in other player's hands, not necessarily his own. The last two games, the Bulls have been stagnate on offense.


HOW SPECIAL ARE THE TEAMS?


Patrick O'Donnell has been effective punting the ball for UC, although I wish he had more shots to boom the ball rather than delivering it rugby style. The return game is down a bit with the injury to Darrin Williams, leaving D.J. Woods as the only option sometimes. If his bell is rung, the duties go to a true freshman in Anthony McClung which could be nerve-wracking.


USF has a punt returner (Terrance Michell) with a 67-yard return and a kick returner (Lindsey Lamar) with a 94-yard effort. The Bearcats haven't broken anything yet. Punter Justin Brockhaus-Kann has a hyphen in his last name, while O'Donnell has an apostrophe, so I guess we're somewhat even there. The Bulls kicking has been shared by Maikan Bonani and Eric Schwartz.


NOD: Jake Rogers has more touchbacks than the USF kickers, but Bonani's been more accurate. (Regarding USF's other kicker, the "Schwartz" hasn't always been with them). Kick returns should be a concern in this game with USF possessing great speed. D.J. Woods has been close to breaking kicks--but still not yet.


WHAT ELSE IS THERE SCOTT?

Well, usually a visit by USF comes with cold weather. Below 30 and they're completely toast. Add a light jacket in the 40s and some Bulls still might wear longjohns. Indications are for there to be a "nip" in the air, but it shouldn't be a factor in scaring USF back to their team heater.


From an outsider, USF looks like a team that has not totally "bought in " to their coaches methods quite yet. From what I've seen of the Big East so far, no one stands out, so this is really another game the Bearcats should nail down.



     As an aside, it turns out Bearcat blogger Paul Dehner Jr. is 30 as of this Monday.   I recall that being somewhat of an odd, dark day in my life too.   However, I would absolutely jump at the opportunity to go back in the "Wayback" machine and experience the despair that Paul's having today. 

     Please, buy the young man a beverage and offer up some encouraging words for the future should you see him this week.

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