On the back of four consecutive losses, USF plays at Syracuse on Friday, trying to break the longest losing streak in program history. With a loss, the Bulls would be guaranteed at least a share of last place in the conference.
Syracuse (5-4, 1-3) has played well at home this season, with a 4-1 record at the Carrier Dome, including its lone conference win, a 49-23 triumph over then-No. 11 West Virginia. The Bulls are 3-0 all-time at the Carrier Dome, and if they are going to break into the win column against the Orange, they may have to get as much production from the passing game as they have on the ground.
The Bulls face a Syracuse rush defense that allows only 115.4 yards per game, yet ranks 102nd in the country in pass defense, allowing an average of 267.4 yards.
USF will need to take advantage of Syracuse’s pass defense and look to generate more offensive production in the air than they did against Rutgers last week. The bulk of USF’s yards on offense came on the ground, and with the possibility of leading rusher Darrell Scott sidelined due to injury, a successful game from junior quarterback B.J. Daniels could be key.
Daniels said the offense will approach the game with confidence, regardless of whether Scott plays.
“Coach (Skip) Holtz talks about (having players out) all the time, not having the dropoff between the (starters) and (backups) or the guys that are rotating. Right now, in our practices, everybody’s getting work. Everybody’s giving the offense a pretty good look, so, right now, we are going into this game with a lot of confidence.”
Syracuse sophomore free safety Philip Thomas has 68 tackles, leading an Orange defense that averages 2.6 sacks and 6.8 tackles for loss per game.
“I think they have one of the best players in the league at free safety,” Holtz said of Thomas. “He’s leading their team in tackles. He’s leading the league … with six interceptions. Very aggressive, active player.”
Senior defensive end Chandler Jones also caught Holtz’s eye on tape.
“Chandler Jones, I think, again, is one of the better defensive ends in the league. At 6-foot-5, 265 (to) 270 pounds, he’s an imposing figure out there on the corner, and you’re going to have to game plan around him. You have to know where he is, because he is a guy that can wreak havoc on your offense.”
USF offensive coordinator Todd Fitch is optimistic that the offense can get the job done because the Bulls have played opponents with similar-style defenses in recent games.
“Fortunately, for us offensively, we have played really two really physical defenses our last two times out,” he said. “Cincinnati is a very physical unit up front, the best run-stopping defense in our league, and then Rutgers has probably the best overall defense in our league from front end to back end and is very aggressive natured. So, our kids have been playing very physical, attacking defenses, so this isn’t the first one we’ve played, and it’ll be very similar to those styles, you know, in terms of defensive pressure.”
Kickoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. on ESPN2.