No one believes in USF. No one feels like the Bulls have a chance Saturday at No. 10 Louisville.
The odds makers don’t, most analysts don’t, and the Louisville faithful on their message boards certainly don’t, claiming “their Cardinals” will lock up an 11-1 season.
“I don’t think that there are many people that think we’re going to win,” said quarterback Matt Grothe, who was named this week’s Co-Big East Offensive Player of the Week after setting a new team single-game passing record with 364 yards. “We’re something like a 16-and-a-half point underdog or something, which (is) whatever. Because our biggest thing (holding us back) is our turnovers, and if we stop that we have the best chance.”
The Bulls have given up seven turnovers in the past two games and aren’t discounting the challenge presented by Louisville. Usually coach Jim Leavitt talks up a team no matter its record or legacy, but this week he figures not many people can pose an argument to him.
“I know how I come up here every week and talk about how good the teams are we play,” Leavitt said. “Sometimes you buy into it with me, sometimes you don’t, but I don’t think there isn’t anyone here not buying into it this week.”
Leavitt might be right. Louisville has the No. 2 offense in the nation, averaging 467 yards per game. They have the sixth best scoring offense, averaging 37.7 points per game. The Bulls rank 32nd and 56th in those two categories, respectively.
“They do have that high-powered offense,” cornerback Trae Williams said. “We have that challenge on top of being on the road.”
However, USF is 15th in total defense, allowing only 280 yards per game, but also boasts the 22nd best passing defense, which was effective against Pittsburgh quarterback Tyler Palko. The Bulls forced the senior and NFL hopeful to throw three interceptions, the total number of interceptions Palko had coming into the game.
And somehow, somewhere, last year will be brought up.
On Sept. 24, 2005, the Bulls pulled the biggest win in team history by upsetting Louisville 45-14. ESPNU, which will broadcast the game Saturday, is sure to bring it up.
But do so to the players, and one will find they’ve moved on.
“It’s been fairly easy to forget last year because it’s all in the past,” Williams said. “(Louisville) is probably thinking about revenge from last year, and I don’t think about it, and we can’t be thinking about last year.”
Others echoed that a great upset can’t be counted on to succeed the next season.
“It hasn’t been that difficult,” linebacker Pat St. Louis said. “Last year was last year, and this year is this year. … We can’t even think about last year in the conference, and we have to focus more on what we need to do this year.”
So the players are focused on this year. They’re thinking about traveling to Kentucky, where once again they’ll probably be playing in 40-degree weather or below, a temperature range they have not yet found success in.
But they have an advantage, thanks to a team that has already beaten them.
No. 7 Rutgers upset Louisville on Thursday 28-25 with a last-second field goal and an offsides penalty.
Did the Bulls take away something from how the Scarlet Knights shut down the Cardinals in the second half?
If so, St. Louis is keeping his mouth shut.
“I’m not telling,” St. Louis said. “We’ll see what happens when the game comes. We’ll see what happens.”