Oct. 29, 2008
I always enjoy the UC/South Florida game for a lot of reasons. First and foremost, as a 1983 UC grad, I’m pulling for them and make no apologies about it. The real die-hard media types refuse to admit rooting; I simply make no bones about it.
I’m not unprofessional about it in any way, but in writing here, or for Bearcat Sports Digest, or during my time on the radio sidelines, I thought it was important to tell the truth and “fly the colors”. That works two ways though….
When UC’s winning I’m a popular guy. However, I’ve certainly been questioned at times for questioning strategy and second-guessing decisions.
No big deal to me, I’m never going to apologize for having an opinion and viewing the game just as I would in the stands if I were sitting next to you.
The other reason I enjoy the Bearcats/Bulls match-up is…I actually am a USF graduate as well.
My radio career actually started in Florida in the Tampa Bay area and while starting off in the WFLA news and traffic room in the mid-80s I earned a second bachelor’s degree from the big school in the area.
What they’ve done is simply amazing!
When I moved to the area in 1985, the USFL Tampa Bay Bandits were folding and the NFL Tampa Bay Buccaneers played at the “Big Sombrero” (Tampa Stadium) and were simply hideous in uniform and play.
By then, the University of Tampa (downtown) had abandoned football despite having Fran Curci (former UK football coach) as AD. If you know your college football history, the University of Tampa used to be coached by former OSU coach Earle Bruce and had the likes of NFL greats Freddie Solomon and John Matuszak play there. They typically made appearances in the old Tangerine Bowl (now Florida Citrus Bowl).
However, South Florida had no football. They had 35 to 40,000 students at the time (kind of a commuter school in a pro town similar to UC) but no football. USF had baseball (Hall of Famer Robin Roberts coached there, mustachioed Reds analyst Chris Welsh played there) and they had basketball (former Purdue and Charlotte coach Lee Rose was coach).
But, there was no football. I lived in the area between 1985-1990 and college football in the area went in this order: 1) Florida Gators; 2) Florida State Seminoles; and 3) University of Miami Hurricanes.
If you checked the rosters of those schools back then, no doubt you saw a plethora of talent from the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area ( as well as from surrounding areas like Sarasota, Lakeland, Pasco County, etc.).
That’s exactly where the opening came from. At some point in the 90s, I suppose there was enough grumbling from the locals to start a “club” team, and then gradually work up to their current level of Division I. They hired Jim Leavitt, a defensive coordinator from Kansas State (who was from St. Pete) and he’s been the only coach they’ve ever had.
Once they hit Division I, they hit it running as now recruits that didn’t get looks at “The Big 3” state schools I mentioned, started staying around town and helped build a program. Eventually, as the wins came, USF became more of a destination as opposed to a “fall back” option.
Florida has a lot to offer football players. Many high school programs can practice year round due to the weather (same for baseball) and the place is loaded with fast, talented athletes.
Look in any media guide in the country, and you’ll find Florida players on the roster. Fortunate schools get these guys to come north and boost the programs up here. But now, USF is a major player in the competition to attract fast, strong players out of the Sunshine State.
A caveat though, while I’m impressed and awed by what Alma Mater #2 has done, I will always pull for Alma Mater #1 in head-to head battles.
WHEN: Thursday night “Be Loud and Wear Black”
WHERE: The hopefully packed confines of Nippert Stadium
PIGSKIN FLYS: 7:30 P.M. “Blackout Time”
SERIES: Bearcats lead 3-2 having won the last two.
LAST MEETING: UC wins the shootout at Raymond James 38-33 last November 3rd.
UC OFFENSE VS. USF DEFENSE
Next to Oklahoma, this is the best and most talented defense UC will have faced. Defensive end George Selvie is a monster and if you see a gold helmet and a #95 jersey in UC’s backfield, that could be a bad omen. Selvie had two sacks against Louisville last week and has five on the year. Linebacker Tyrone McKenzie (on his third Division I school after Iowa State and Michigan State) leads USF in tackles. That doesn’t bode well if UC wants to improve their run game which incredibly amounted to just seven lugs last weekend.
Clearly the difference maker here is the Tony Pike /Chazz Anderson decision. If Pike’s injured non-throwing arm isn’t bothering him, the Bulls can be picked apart in the secondary. Heck, even Marcus Barnett threw a TD pass last year. But, if Pike is tentative and not 100% (and he sure looked it vs. UConn) then UC has to go conservative somewhat with Anderson. That could lead to a scrambling, short pass game and that could be dangerous if USF’s Selvie is on the warpath. This is also troublesome if Anderson were to be banged up. Personally, I think Zach Collaros could excel in this type of game, but it’s important to note that I am rarely consulted on personnel decisions.
NOD: Because of the “game-time” decision aspect here, I have to say: slight edge to UC with Pike, otherwise Anderson will need major assistance from his teammates to succeed.
UC DEFENSE VS. USF OFFENSE
If you saw the UConn game, you saw the poorest team defensive effort I can recall outside of the Louisville debacle in the rain in late ’04. There are similarities in those games too. In both, UC had lost a starting QB (Guidugli before the game then, Pike at halftime last weekend). I’m sure the coaches have drilled into the kid’s heads the value of perseverance. There’s no sugar-coating that the UConn game defensively was atrocious. Not any toughness, too many arm tackles. Fortunately, the Bulls don’t have Donald Brown or anyone that flicks away defenders like mosquitoes with a stiff arm.
However, they do have Matt Grothe. He’s faced UC twice now and lost both and undoubtedly will be amped up to beat the Bearcats. Grothe is similar to last year’s Bearcat starter Ben Mauk. He’s listed 6’ and 205 pounds and if he doesn’t find anyone open, he’ll run and hurt you that way. Grothe is the team’s second-leading rusher. USF also has the speed and skill you’d expect at receiver with sets featuring three and four passcatchers in routes. If there ever was a time for Mike Mickens (who made the game-winning play last year) and company to have a game—it’s here. Plus, Brandon Underwood has some making up to do.
NOD: Grothe will rack up yards, but UC is way overdue to make a defensive statement. If they don’t, the second half of this season could be rocky.
As much as I like P Kevin Huber, he’s being used way too much. If you’re running your punter out every fourth play, you might need a new Die Hard battery for the offense. Again though, if it’s Chazz-time, you’re probably going to see #47 get a workout in a field position battle. Jake Rogers is still perfect. Also, the last time Erin Andrews was on the sidelines here, Jake drilled a 55-yarder vs. Oregon State.
USF’s kicker is Maikon Bonani who is accurate from 40 on in, Delbert Alvarado is the punter and has gone 1-4 on FG tries also. UC should kick away from Dontavia Bogan, but if Jake drills it into the end zone, that doesn’t matter, does it?
NOD: Go with the home boys.
THROW IT UP AND SEE WHERE IT STICKS
Well, I really thought UC would beat UConn with Pike picking apart the Huskies—due to injury—I was wrong. I don’t like being wrong. I don’t like losing. Neither does the stubborn guy on the sidelines calling the plays. I have to think some new wrinkles have been added to jump-start this offense. Admittedly though, I’d feel a lot better if there were two more practices involved.
The one thing I do know and it’s documented…USF DOES NOT like cold weather! Teams from Florida rarely do. The downside is the forecast early this week says things start to warm up by Thursday. I still think the temperatures will dip into the 40s during the game, but for UC’s sake, hope the meteorologists are wrong and pray for frost warnings! The colder it gets, the better UC’s chances are (folks in Florida wear winter coats when it gets into the 50s)! If you need Bearcat blankets and longjohns by Thursday night, consider us in good shape!