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South Florida (1-0) at Western Kentucky (0-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 12th, 7:30 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Houchens Industries-L.T. Smith Stadium (23,000) -- Bowling Green, Kentucky. Television: ESPN Regional. Home Record: USF 1-0, WKU 0-0. Away Record: USF 0-0, WKU 0-1. Neutral Record: USF 0-0, WKU 0-0. Conference Record: USF 0-0, WKU 0-0. Series Record: Series is tied, 2-2.
GAME NOTES: Having won their season opener, the South Florida Bulls turn their attention to the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers for a non-conference bout this Saturday night.
USF claimed a 40-7 victory over Wofford at home last weekend. The Bulls faded to an 8-5 finish after winning their first five games in 2008, but optimism is high with 17 starters returning from that team. They'll play three of their next four on the road.
The Hilltoppers, on the other hand, are coming off their first losing season in 13 years. Now a full-fledged member of the Sun Belt Conference, WKU opened the season with a lopsided 63-7 loss at Tennessee last Saturday. The Hilltoppers are home for four of their next five games.
The head-to-head series is knotted at 2-2, although this is the first meeting between the two since 2000.
Over the last four years, USF quarterback Matt Grothe has etched his name into the school and conference record books. And now, he is just 88 yards away from Pat White's Big East record of 10,529 total yards. Last week against Wofford, Grothe completed 19-of-23 passes for 155 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He also ran for 44 yards. Moise Plancher headlined the ground game with 78 yards and two TDs on just 12 carries (6.5 ypc). As a team, the Bulls averaged a robust 5.4 yards per carry. The Bulls are without presumed leading back Mike Ford for the first two games because of a violation of team rules.
South Florida defensive end George Selvie followed up a 14.5-sack campaign in 2007, with just 5.5 sacks in '08 as he faced lots of double teams and dealt with some injury problems. Last week against Wofford, Selvie registered one sack and seven tackles. If he is indeed back at full force, opposing Big East offenses will have their hands full. Senior safety Nate Allen had a team-high 10 tackles and also forced a fumble, while linebacker Kion Wilson logged eight tackles (1.5 for loss). However, the Bulls did struggle at times defending Wofford's wingbone offense (177 yards on 50 carries).
Nobody expected Western Kentucky to pull off the upset at Tennessee last week. But for much of the game, the Hilltoppers looked "completely inept," as head coach David Elson put it. And looking at the stats, WKU managed just six first downs and 83 yards of total offense, it's hard to argue with Elson's evaluation. Quarterback Brandon Smith threw for just 44 yards, while the ground game averaged only 1.1 yards per carry. The Hilltoppers converted just 1-of-11 third downs, as the offense wasn't able to get into any kind of rhythm against a bigger, faster SEC defense.
The WKU defense forced turnovers on each of Tennessee's first two possessions and kept the Vols off the scoreboard after the first quarter. But Tennessee erupted with four TDs in the second quarter and quickly took control of the game. Considering WKU's defense is in the middle of a complete overhaul, those kinds of swings are to be expected, especially against a program like Tennessee. When all was said and done, the final numbers were pretty staggering. The Vols logged 34 first downs and 657 yards of offense. They completed 7-of-9 third downs, essentially having their way with the WKU defense.
With Grothe under center, South Florida is poised to make a run in the Big East. Unfortunately for the Hilltoppers, they'll be little more than a speed bump on the Bulls' path.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: South Florida 56, Western Kentucky 7
09/09 11:39:16 ET