Less than one week after a dramatic double-overtime victory against Louisville in the USF football team’s first Conference USA home game, the Bulls now must prepare for arguably the biggest home game in school history.
In one short week, six days to be exact, USF can quickly establish itself as one of the conference front-runners when the Bulls host No. 17 TCU on Friday at Raymond James Stadium in a nationally televised game on ESPN2.
For the second consecutive game, the Bulls are facing one of C-USA’s best teams. And for the second consecutive game, that team is threatening the nation’s second longest home winning streak, which currently stands at 21 games.
However, this time it’s a nationally ranked team, and although USF (3-1, 2-0 C-USA) defeated Bowling Green last season when the team was in one national poll, this marks the first team ever to enter RJS ranked in both major collegiate football polls.
“We think about it a little bit harder than last week, but it’s kind of the same focus,” senior wide receiver Huey Whittaker said. “It’s a big game, they’re ranked and (then) the home streak, but if we handle our business we’ll be all right.”
Handling their business is what the Bulls need to focus on in the short week. And what the team must do is put last week’s dramatic come-from-behind victory in the past.
“We know we can’t sit and dwell on (the Louisville) win,” junior wide receiver Brian Fisher said. “I mean, this is another big game, and this is what you ask for when you step into a conference. If you want to be a conference champ, you have to play the best.”
And that’s exactly what the Bulls are getting–the best. TCU (5-0, 2-0) is the defending conference champion, and like Louisville, entering with an undefeated record. This game also serves as a battle for a first-place tie in C-USA, where Southern Miss currently sits atop at 3-0.
But there is something else that stands out about this team from Fort Worth, Texas.
“We have a winning streak of our own,” TCU coach Gary Patterson said. “One team’s is going to break Friday.”
TCU also owns a streak that is the second longest in the nation. The Horned Frogs have the second longest unbeaten streak, which currently stands at seven games and is second only to last season’s national champions, Ohio State.
“This is what you want,” Fisher said. “It’s going to be a war out there. They’re going to be fighting just as hard as us.”
This game features two of the top defensive teams in the conference, with TCU ranked first and USF ranked fifth.
However, Patterson said he thinks this game is going to come down to which team can move the ball on offense.
“You can’t win a 9-6 game on field goals with (USF),” Patterson said. “They’re too talented, and we have to score points.”
The Bulls also must score some points, and more consistently than Saturday. After scoring two quick touchdowns in the first quarter, the USF offense fell asleep, but finally woke up in time to score a last-second touchdown to force overtime.
Had the Bulls not produced that score late in the game, the feeling within the offense could have been different.
“Negativity is the kind of thing we try to put aside,” Whittaker said. “We did come out with the win, so we just think about that.”
One option the Bulls could use more is lining up Fisher at quarterback, which proved effective against Louisville.
“(We’re) trying to find ways to move the ball, and if we can move the ball a little bit with Brian in there, and we think we have an advantage in a certain situation, we will (use him), ” USF coach Jim Leavitt said.
Fisher, who has played receiver and quarterback this season and has served as the punt returner on special teams, only has one goal in mind when he takes the field. And it doesn’t have anything to do with what position he plays.
“Like I tell Coach Leavitt all the time; wherever he needs me, I’ll perform,” Fisher said. “Actually, I would like to play running back, mostly. (But) I just want to win.
“I don’t even have to touch the ball, as long as we win.”