Louisville (5-5, 2-3) at USF (7-3, 2-3)When: Saturday, 8 p.m.Where: Ramond James StadiumTV/Radio: ESPN-U/WFLA 970
Early in the season, this Saturday’s match-up between South Florida and Louisville was expected to carry major Big East championship implications and possibly stir up the national title picture.
With both teams falling from the Top 10 to unranked over the course of the season, this week’s game might not have an impact on any championship pictures, but it will mean something to the players, who have become very passionate about this budding Big East rivalry.
“They beat us good (last year),” Bulls quarterback Matt Grothe said. “It’s as simple as that. It was embarrassing to watch. They had the perfect scheme against us. Now that we know what they did last year and what they’ve done this year, we know we’ve got a couple different things we can do. It should be a fun match-up.”
Louisville (5-5, 2-3 Big East) defeated South Florida (7-3, 2-3 Big East) 30-8 in Kentucky last season, tying the all-time series at 2-2 and marking the fourth time the home team has won the contest. The Bulls made their Big East Conference debut with a 45-14 thrashing of the Cardinals in 2005.
Despite its mediocre record, Louisville boasts one of the most potent offenses in college football this season and will provide a challenge for the Bulls defense. The Cardinals offense – led by Heisman Trophy candidate Brian Brohm – is ranked seventh in the nation in total offense (497.6 yards per game) and third in the nation in passing offense (359.3 yards per game).
After facing Brohm in last year’s loss to the Cardinals, George Selvie – Bulls defensive end and national leader in both sacks (14.5) and tackles for a loss (30.5) – knows the caliber of player he will be lining up across from Saturday.
“Brian is a great quarterback,” Selvie said. “We had a tough time with him last year. It is going to be hard for our whole defense to try and take him on. We are going to step up to that challenge.”
Despite hosting the Big East’s third-best scoring offense, Grothe does not believe the game will turn into a scoring race. Instead, the sophomore quarterback feels the team that can gain momentum early and capitalize on the other’s mistakes will come out on top.
“I don’t think it will be a shootout,” Grothe said. “Our defense is one of the best, and their defense has, the last few years, been one of the best. I think it’s going to be more of who can make the bigger plays and take advantage of what the other team’s vulnerable of. We need to come out and score early. Seems like every time we score first we win.”
With No. 22 Cincinnati hosting No. 6 West Virginia on Saturday as well, the game
featuring two teams that were in the Top 10 for multiple weeks this season is now not even the biggest Big East Conference game of the week. However, coach Jim Leavitt knows there will be a lot at stake when the Bulls and the Cardinals take the field, and expects both squads to bring the best they have to offer.
“There is a lot on the line,” Leavitt said. “Both teams are battling for a position in the conference – both teams are battling for bowl-type situations. I believe our guys will play hard, and play well. I believe they will too, so it is going to be a heck of a ball game.”