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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, November 23, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Nippert Stadium (35,097) -- Cincinnati, Ohio. Television: ESPN. Home Record: USF 2-3, Cincinnati 5-1. Away Record: USF 1-4, Cincinnati 1-2. Neutral Record: USF 0-0, Cincinnati 1-0. Conference Record: USF 1-4, Cincinnati 3-2. Series Record: Cincinnati leads, 6-3.
GAME NOTES: In its final home game of the season, Cincinnati will host South Florida when the Bearcats and Bulls get together at Nipper Stadium on Friday night.
With starting quarterback B.J. Daniels suffering a season-ending ankle injury in the previous week, South Florida was no match for instate rival Miami- Florida, as the Bulls were routed 40-9 at Sun Life Stadium. The loss puts the Bulls at just 3-7 overall this season and in danger of posting their worst record as a Division I program. The Bulls have also only earned one Big East win on the season.
The Bearcats also utilized a quarterback other than its opening day starter in its most recent game. However Munchie Legaux was pulled not due to an injury but poor performance. It didn't end up making a different as the Bearcats lost for the first time at home with a 10-3 defeat to a nationally-ranked Rutgers squad. That loss ended a two-game winning streak and puts Cincinnati at 7-3 overall and 3-2 in conference play.
This marks just the 10th all-time meeting between these programs. Cincinnati owns the series lead with six wins in the previous nine matchups including a 37-34 victory in Tampa, Florida last season.
Losing Daniels is a crushing blow to a South Florida team that hasn't exactly recorded an impressive offensive season. The Bulls are fifth in the conference in total offense (398.7 ypg) and second to last in scoring (23.4 ppg). When healthy Daniels accounted for 2,509 yards and 19 touchdowns combined between his efforts throwing and running the ball.
In his place steps Matt Floyd who looked overwhelmed against Miami last weekend. Although he completed a decent number of his pass attempts (20-of-35) he finished with just 175 yards passing and was intercepted twice. Floyd is also not a mobile quarterback which changes up the offensive gameplan as well.
Top receivers Andre Davis (39 receptions, 482 yards, 6 TDs) and Terrence Mitchell (31 receptions, 414 yards) were already having mediocre seasons as it is but with an entirely new quarterback under center both will likely be unable to have a strong finish.
Obviously the passing game is going to suffer without Daniels which makes it all that more vital that running back Demetris Murray continues to produce. He rushed for 108 yards against Miami and now has 584 rushing yards and five touchdowns this season.
On defense South Florida can't point to a major injury to explain its poor performance this season. The Bulls are one of just two teams in the conference to allow more than 400 yards of offense per game (412.3 ypg) and is also struggling to keep team's off the scoreboard with the second worst scoring defense in the Big East (30.5 ppg). The defense has not made a large number of plays in the backfield (51 TFLs) nor created turnovers with a miserable -14 turnover differential.
Four different players have reached the 60-tackle mark for the Bulls led by Kayvon Webster. DeDe Lattimore is also a member of that group and has been the lead pass rusher with 3.5 sacks. Sam Barrington (62 tackles) and Mark Joyce (60) are the other top stoppers.
Cincinnati was the top offense in the Big East before last weekend. After facing the staunch Rutgers' defense, that can no longer be said. The Bearcats managed only 341 total yards and were limited to a season-low 90 yards rushing. The Bearcats can attribute much of those struggles to just how good Rutgers' defense is because Cincinnati has otherwise been a prolific offensive squad. The Bearcats are second in the Big East in both scoring (31.1 ppg) and total offense (444.1 ypg).
Brendon Kay has started in each of the last two games in place of Legaux. He did well in his first start, throwing for 244 yards and a pair of touchdowns against Temple. However Kay was unable to replicate that level of success against Rutgers as he finished with 251 yards but was intercepted twice and sacked three times. Perhaps facing a less destructive defensive unit will see Kay return to the type of numbers he produced against Temple.
If he can't, that puts more onus on Big East leading rusher George Winn. Against Rutgers, Winn was bottled up and finished with just 35 yards on the ground which was by far a season low. Winn needs to get back to the level of production that helped him rack up 1,015 yards and nine touchdowns this season. Winn is the only rusher with more than 1,000 yards in the Big East.
Tight end Travis Kelce has quietly turned in a solid season with strong efforts in the last few weeks. Kelce is now the team leader in receptions (28), yards (472) and touchdown receptions (4).
Just as Kelce has flown under the radar, so too has Cincinnati's defense. Although the Bearcats are nothing special in terms of yards allowed (380.6 ypg) the squad is second to only Rutgers in scoring defense (17.9 ppg). Cincinnati has been able to have such success by constantly making plays on the ball as its 19 forced turnovers this season is the second most in the Big East.
The Bearcats' pass rush took a major hit back in October when defensive end Walter Stewart, who led the team in sacks was lost for the season with a back injury. Without Stewart, Dan Giordano (2.5 sacks) and John Williams (2.5 sacks) are the top pass rushers, though neither has created enough pressure. What has not changed for the Bearcats is the production of linebackers Greg Blair, who is second in the conference with 101 tackles. Cameron Cheatham is the team's best in terms of turnovers with three interceptions, and a forced fumble.
The Bearcats have proved that they can compete with the best in the conference this season. South Florida is not one of those elite teams and without Daniels, will be even less dangerous.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Cincinnati 37, South Florida 20
11/21 11:00:30 ET
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