The big birds of the Big East

“We’re excited about continuing to play them because it’s such a good football team. We’re anxious to keep this thing going. It will be nice. It will be fun.”- USF coach Jim Leavitt, following the Bulls’ 41-9 loss at Louisville last season.

USF opens its inaugural Big East season against the cream of the conference this Saturday, welcoming a Louisville team that hasn’t slowed down since handily beating the Bulls last year.

And the way coach Jim Leavitt talks about the Cardinals, this year’s contest may not be so nice for the Bulls. Or fun.

“They are just so strong in so many ways,” Leavitt said at a press conference Tuesday.

“Every single play you see is just perfect. They are just a very well coached team with a lot of talent. It’s just all there – This is a team that people are talking about possibly winning a national championship.”

Preseason favorites to win the Big East, the Cardinals (2-0) are coming off a 63-20 rout of Oregon State in which they put up 553 yards, 428 of which came through the air.The Bulls have won two in a row, beating Florida A&M and UCF by a combined score of 68-17.

Leavitt knows his team comes in as the underdog and said after the win over UCF that the Bulls will have to play “one heck of a game to even have a chance.”

Highly touted Louisville quarterback Brian Brohm, who threw for 368 yards against Oregon State, played the fourth quarter against USF last season, hitting 7 of 13 pass attempts for 103 yards.

“He throws well, he moves in the pocket well, and he understands the offense and what he needs to do,” Leavitt said. “The best thing about him is that he understands where to throw the ball. He has everybody on the same page, and that’s very important.”

Seventh in the nation in scoring with 47 points a game, every part of Louisville’s offense is clicking. But USF’s defense — coming off two dominant performances against FAMU and UCF — is also playing well, and is ranked No. 7 in scoring defense (13.3), No. 5 in passing defense (117.3) and No. 8 in total defense (230.7).

The biggest stat, though, is Louisville’s No. 9 ranking in both the Associated Press and USA Today polls.

“We’ve had other nationally ranked teams come in. Bowling Green has come in and was ranked,” Leavitt said. “But is this the best? Yeah, by far.”