As recently as two weeks ago, the USF Bulls were ranked 14th in the USA Today poll, and 16th in the AP Poll.
Back-to-back road losses at Pitt and UConn knocked USF from the polls, but UC head coach Butch Jones says the Bulls are loaded.
"I think they're one or two in the Big East in raw talent," said Jones. "When you look at their defensive front and their secondary, they're very explosive. Then you have B.J. Daniels at quarterback and a great one-two punch at running back between 240-pound Darrell Scott and Demetris Murray. They're number one in the Big East in rushing offense (215.2 yards per game)."
USF's offense revolves around Daniels who ranks second in the league in passing yards (243 per game) and eighth in rushing yards (53.7 per game). While it seems - at least to me - that B.J. has been the Bulls quarterback for a decade, he's actually only a redshirt junior. Daniels was brilliant in last year's USF win at Nippert Stadium, as he passed for 286 yards and a pair of touchdowns and ran for two more.
"You have to keep him in check," said Coach Jones. "B.J. presents so many problems because he can throw the football and you can't let him set his feet. We have to do a great job of staying in coverage when he scrambles and then rally to the football. It's going to test our eye discipline in our secondary. They're going to spread us out and throw some perimeter screens and then they'll throw the ball deep and test our corners."
While the Bulls rank first in the Big East in rushing offense, they are at the bottom of the league in rushing defense at 125.5 yards a game. A big chunk of those yards came in USF's 44-17 loss at Pitt when Ray Graham ran for 226 yards on 26 carries.
"The things that he does are amazing," said senior guard Randy Martinez. "The passion that he brings to the game makes you want to play that much harder. If you hold your block for a little bit longer, he'll break an 80-yard run. If you just give a little extra effort, he'll do amazing things."
"Isaiah just needs to relax and trust his run reads," said Coach Jones. "The big thing is to make four yards first and then look to make the big play. That's what he did in the second half of the
The Bearcats have won the last two times they've played at Raymond James Stadium, and will need to play well on Saturday to extend that streak to three.
"USF is a great home team," said Coach Jones. "They're averaging 53 points at home and 16 points on the road. They're a great football team. We're going to have to play our best and we're going to have to play physical. It's going to be a great challenge for us."
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After several days of non-stop rain in
Fortunately, the Bearcats were not impacted by the lousy weather all week back home thanks to the indoor practice field at the
"The indoor practice bubble paid big dividends, and hats off to our administration and (Director of Facilities) Brendan Fouracre for everything they did in getting it up early," said Coach Jones. "It was critical. We could simulate the elements in terms of temperature, and we didn't have to practice in the driving rain storms."
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As the team boarded its Delta charter on Friday morning, I thought it was telling that the seniors were seated in first class while the coaches - including Butch Jones - were seated in coach.
A little thing perhaps, but more proof that the players come first at UC.
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