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FBS Football News
Syracuse (1-5) at (19) South Florida (5-1)
Saturday, October 18th, 12:00 p.m. (et)
From The Sports Network
By Ralph Lauro, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The 19th-ranked South Florida Bulls look to regain their winning form this weekend, as they host the Syracuse Orange in a Big East tussle at Raymond James Stadium.
The Bulls have been out of action for quite some time, as they were last in play against Pittsburgh on October 2nd. In that bout, the then 10th-ranked Bulls were upset in their own backyard by Pittsburgh, 26-21, in a hard fought affair. It marked the first league game of the year for USF, which was considered one of the favorites to win the Big East this season. Despite the setback, head coach Jim Leavitt remains optimistic about his team's chances of rebounding and competing for the league title.
"Nobody has gone undefeated through the Big East since we have entered the league and we have to find a way to put this behind us, move forward and get ready to play."
The Bulls had won five consecutive games to begin the season, matching their second best start in school history. The home loss though, certainly hurt, as USF will take to the road to face Louisville and Cincinnati following this weekend's bout.
The good news for USF is that it is facing a Syracuse program that has been the doormat of the Big East over the past few years. This season doesn't appear to be any different, as the Orange enter the contest just 1-5 overall and 0-2 within the conference. Last weekend, the Orange was downed at West Virginia, 17-6, for its second loss in a row. With the defeat, Syracuse remained winless on the season versus programs at the Football Bowl Subdivision level.
Saturday's game will represent the fourth meeting ever on the gridiron between USF and Syracuse, with the Bulls winning the prior three encounters and by an average margin of 25.0 ppg. Last season, USF claimed a 41-10 triumph over the Orange at the Carrier Dome.
Syracuse has struggled on both sides of the ball this season and on the offensive end of things the program is managing just 18.5 ppg and only 297.3 total ypg. On a positive note, the Orange has found some success on the ground, where it is producing a solid 154.2 ypg.
Tailback Curtis Brinkley has enjoyed a good campaign up to this season and he has cracked the century mark on four occasions this season. In a loss at WVU last weekend, Brinkley was one of the few bright spots for the Orange, as he toted 28 times for 144 yards. It was a fine effort by Brinkley, who has rushed for 621 yards and three touchdowns for the year. Brinkley has carried much of the offense this season, as Cameron Dantley has been up and down. For the year, Dantley has completed 56.9 percent of his tosses for 150.6 ypg, but with only seven touchdowns and three interceptions. He wasn't much of a factor in the loss to WVU, converting 24-of-40 tosses for 204 yards and a pick. Donte Davis was his main outlet in that game with seven catches for 62 yards and he leads the team with 21 receptions for the year.
Defensively, the Orange is watching opposing teams march up and down the field, as the team is surrendering 33.2 ppg and 430.0 total ypg. The unit has really struggled against the run, giving up 208.3 ypg, and hasn't fared much better against the pass, yielding 221.7 ypg and 15 touchdowns. Generating some big plays has also been in a issue for Syracuse, which has notched just six sacks and forced only eight turnovers. The defense however, is coming off a solid effort in which it limited WVU to only 13 first downs and just 268 total yards. Syracuse surrendered just 17 points to WVU, but once again failed to create a turnover. Derrell Smith guided the team in defeat with eight stops, 3.5 TFLs and a sack. He now ranks second on the team in tackles (39) and first in TFLs (five) on the season.
The Bulls possess one of the top offenses in the Big East, as they are scoring 33.8 ppg and gaining 427.8 total ypg for the year. The offense's success can be attributed to its balance, rushing for 187.2 ypg and throwing for 240.7 total ypg.
USF though, is coming off one of its worst offensive performances of the season, as it managed only 245 total yards in a loss to Pittsburgh. Quarterback Matt Grothe ran for 25 yards and a score and threw for 129 yards and another touchdown, but he completed just 11-of-21 pass attempts and was picked off once and sacked four times. The effort was sub par for Grothe's standards, as he has enjoyed much more success on the season. The versatile play caller has not only completed 64.2 percent of his tosses for 1,304 yards this year, but he also leads the team with 244 rushing yards. He has posted 11 total touchdowns (two rushing) while throwing only three interceptions. Jessie Hester has been one of his main outlets and he leads the team with 25 catches and three receiving touchdowns. In the loss to Pitt, Hester snared three balls for 34 yards and a score.
Although they haven't forced many turnovers (eight) or recorded a lot of sacks (seven), the Bulls' defense has been effective thus far. Overall, the defense is permitting a mere 265.5 total ypg, with only 73.3 of those ypg coming on the ground. The team has also done well in keeping teams off the scoreboard, allowing just 18.3 ppg.
In the squad's last outing however, USF struggled a bit, as it watched Pitt total 374 yards, including 146 via the run. The defense did generate two turnovers and register the same amount of sacks, but it also allowed Pitt to drive 60 yards in just over a minute for the game winning score with 4:43 left in the final period. Tyrone McKenzie led the way for USF with 15 stops, while Kion Wilson recovered a pair of fumbles. For the year, McKenzie tops the roster with 46 stops and that includes six for losses.
Not that they needed it, but the Bulls had plenty of time to prepare for this game and that is even more bad news for the Orange. USF is simply too talented to let Syracuse even hang around and it should be able to blow this one open early behind the efforts of Grothe and company.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: South Florida 42, Syracuse 17
10/15 10:31:52 ET