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Bulls go on the road to play FIU

No. 12 USF vs. FIU
When: Sat., 5 p.m.
Where: FIU Stadium

Saturday’s game against Florida International is the biggest game of the season for the No. 12 South Florida football team.

That’s the message USF coach Jim Leavitt conveyed to his players this week. The Bulls (3-0) will travel to Fort Lauderdale to play the first game in the new FIU Stadium.

The Golden Panthers (0-2) are ranked last out of 119 teams in Division-1 football. Leavitt, however, said rankings mean nothing when two in-state teams play.

“I understand that this team has a chance to win, just like we do,” Leavitt said. “If we’re not prepared, then we’re going to have some problems.”

Leavitt said FIU has improved since the teams last met. USF beat FIU 21-20 at Raymond James Stadium in 2006.

“They came into our place and had that game won,” he said. “Now, we’re going to their place when they’ve had two weeks to prepare and they have their opening deal. I don’t think there’s too many people who understand that this is going to come down to the end of the game.”

Senior linebacker Brouce Mompremier said he remembered the last time that USF played FIU, and he wants to do better personally.

“I remember being out on the special teams unit when they returned a punt for a touchdown,” he said. “We know there’s going to be a lot of emotions whenever we play a Florida team.”

Leavitt said the Bulls have been preparing for Saturday’s game as if it were the last game they’d ever play and will use the same approach they take for every opponent.

“The emotion is going to be high and it’s going to be a very physical game,” he said. “We never change our approach. Every game is like the freaking Super Bowl. Every game is that big. That’s always been our mentality. If that’s not our mentality then forget it, because we’re not going to be very successful.”

Running backs Ben Williams (senior) and Mike Ford (sophomore) have continued to practice, but Leavitt did not know if they would be ready to play Saturday.

Both have been recovering from ankle injuries suffered in the season opener.

“Ben looks good, and Mike’s getting there,” Leavitt said. “We’ll take them and see what they can do.”

Ford and Williams will make the trip, but Leavitt said the two have to earn their way back to the starting lineup.

“It’s going to be hard for them to beat out some of those guys,” Leavitt said. “(Junior) Moise Plancher and (sophomore) Jamar Taylor are pretty good. It ain’t like they’re going to come in and beat those guys out now. They’ve lost a little bit of ground.”

Defensive coordinator Wally Burnham said there are two players trying to get a spot at defensive tackle — junior Aaron Harris and sophomore Sampson Genus.

“Right now, (sophomore) Terrell McClain will start for sure,” Burnham said. “Aaron is trying to work back from a nagging little injury he’s got. Sampson is also trying to work through a little injury, so we’re going to see what happens in practice tomorrow then make a decision.”