The Bulls may have more than just a Big East win in mind.
On another Thursday night ESPN broadcast, No. 24 USF (6-2, 2-2) faces Rutgers (6-2, 1-2) on the road at 7:30 for a chance to gain ground in a sputtering Big East race, while getting an opportunity to avenge the losses the Scarlet Knights have put on the Bulls in recent years.
“Rutgers was definitely a game that we marked on our calendars,” said Bulls redshirt freshman quarterback B.J. Daniels, who leads the nation in yards per completion. “We are doing the things that we need to do to get ready, and we just have to execute come game time.”
Last year, USF was embarrassed 49-16 by Rutgers at Raymond James Stadium – the Bulls’ most lopsided Big East loss ever – leaving some of the players thinking the Scarlet Knights ran up the score.
Two years ago, the Rutgers beat then-No. 2 USF during a Thursday night ESPN broadcast, sending the Bulls in a tailspin the next two games.
“It’s not one of my favorite teams,” said senior defensive end George Selvie, who is 1-3 against Rutgers in his career. “I’ve never beat them before. I was here when we did beat them. They’re looking good. We just have to get our game plan together.”
USF had the plan together against West Virginia two weeks ago in a 30-19 win, which vaulted the Bulls back into the three major college football polls. Rutgers, however, poses a much different challenge.
The USF coaching staff said it devoted a considerable amount of time throughout the year in preparation for Rutgers, mostly alluding to the blitz-happy defensive scheme coach Greg Schiano brings.
“We have been working on Rutgers, and I am sure they have been working on us as well,” said USF coach Jim Leavitt. “They are a very explosive football team. (Wide receiver) Tim Brown is one of the most explosive players we’ve seen this year.”
Brown enters tonight’s contest averaging 101.4 receiving yards a game, good for ninth nationally. Freshman quarterback Tom Savage has just one interception in 168 pass attempts this year and had three touchdown passes in a 28-24 win over Connecticut on Oct. 31.
“They’ve done a good job of bringing him along as a freshman and giving him the right throws,” said USF defensive coordinator Joe Tresey. “I think he’s gotten better every week.”
Rutgers sits just a half game behind USF in the conference standings and could overtake the fourth-place Bulls with a win.
USF, meanwhile, needs one win to become bowl eligible. The Bulls have lost their last four Thursday night games but had extra time to prepare for this one coming off a bye week.
But Daniels said winning on a Thursday night isn’t the only incentive.
“Just the way they beat us last year,” Daniels said. “This is a game that is important to us. We definitely want to come out on point and ready to go.”