With these five points the Bearcats lock up the world, or just another Big East win.
Handle The Environment
Saturday marks the first real road game for UC since the Tennessee game. The Bearcats have had four home games out of the first 6 games of the season. One of the two away games was at Miami which is has basically become Nippert West. UC even stayed in their usual pre game hotel and bussed up to Oxford. USF doesn't have the same environment that the Bearcats found in Knoxville, but it is not exactly going to be quiet either. On top of that for USF this game is a must win. If they want to have any hope at all of winning the Big East and claiming the first, and only, conference championship in program history. They will be ready to play and UC has to match that intensity from the offing. Most of the front line players for UC have been around the block a time or three, but the Bearcats are still pretty young throughout the team. Everyone has to come prepared.
This is something of a corollary to the first point, but this is more in reference to the offense which has been terribly slow off the mark since the N.C. State game. On the road, in a conference game, starting fast is vital. USF has an OK defense, it isn't great as a whole. However there are individuals like Ryne Giddins, Jerrell Young and Dede Latimore who have the ability to make big impacts over the course of the game.
Part of the problem with the slow starts offensively lies in the hands of mistakes by the offense in the form of penalties and turnovers. I am on the record for not giving a shit about penalties, because they have almost no bearing in the outcome of any given game. But I do care about turnovers. UC has gotten to 5-1 by virtue of breaking even or being + in the turnover margin in 5 of the six games to date. For the Bearcats the majority of miscues have come in the first half. 3 of Zach Collaros's 4 interceptions have come before halftime, 1 each in the last three games. UC has fumbled a total of 11 times in 2011, 7 of them have come in the first half, 6 of them in the last three games again. It goes without saying that putting the ball on the ground 2 or 3 times in the first half Saturday would be a disaster.
The same concerns I had last week about Teddy Bridgewater stand this week with B.J. Daniels. Those concerns were unfounded last week because the UC defensive line so thoroughly dominated the Cardinals that Bridgewater didn't even have time to scramble before the cavalry arrived. USF's line is much better, they have given up just 7 sacks on the year, or to put that another way on just 3 per cent of all passing attempts, which is damn good. Part of that is Daniels being a mobile passer yes. But the Bulls offensive line will provide a much stiffer challenge than the Cardinals did. What I want to see is a disciplined pass rush to keep Daniels in the pocket, and a secondary that keeps everyone in front of them if Daniels does break the pocket. Coverage busts are a no no in this game.
Patrick O'Donnell has been spectacular, for the most part, as a punter. Ralph David Abernathy has been a pleasant surprise as a kick returner on the year. But since O'Donnell's monster punt against N.C. State the Special teams haven't turned in many big plays against Miami and Louisville RDA4 had a nice kick return against Louisville, but that's it. UC can win by simply holding serve in the kicking game, but a big momentum shifting play would go a long way to putting this game in the win column.