The Bulls have another battle this week with huge Big East ramifications. UConn is undefeated in Big East play thus far and their only loss on the season was a one point loss at Virginia. UConn is coming off of a rainy victory against Louisville, while USF is coming off of a devastating loss to Rutgers. The big thing for the Bulls will be if they forgot about the Rutgers game and were able to focus on UConn and the Big East Title. The Bulls have had trouble at UConn in the past and this game will be tough one for them to win.
The UConn defense has very good on the year thus far. They are only allowing 98 yards on the ground and 174 yards through the air during the game. They are also third in points allowed in the nation, giving up only 12.7 ppg. They have a stout run defense and a ball hawking secondary that has 16 interceptions on the year. They shut down Brian Brohm and the Louisville offense last week. They allowed Brohm to throw for only 228 yards in the game and picked him off 2 times. This defense looks to make things happen for their team because the offense has not been great. UConn reminds me a lot of this USF team, a great defense and an Offense that does just enough to win the game.
The UConn offense is based around the run and they will look to pound the rock against USF. The Bulls have been good against the run, when those backs are speed backs and trying to get to the outside, but have struggled against power backs running down hill, Ray Rice. Andre Dixon is the leader in the backfield for the Huskies and he is more of a power runner and in fact scored a touchdown last week dragging 4 Cardinals with him for 5 yards into the end zone. The Bulls are going to need to be very physical and hit him in the backfield or make him try to go to the outside so that they can use their speed to an advantage. George Selvie will need to show up this week, which he did not last week. His pressure in the backfield on passing and running plays is vital to disrupting the pass and run game. Pressure causes problems, which will lead to turnovers and good field position for the Bulls.
Expect UConn to follow the Rutgers model on how to defend this USF offense. Rutgers was torched in the first half of the game by Matt Groethe's legs. Groethe was able to break containment and picked up huge chunks of yardage and helped move the ball down field. During half time the Knights adjusted and played containment or had a spy on Groethe the rest of the game. For most of the second half Groethe was not able to move out of the pocket and was eother sacked or made bad throws. Groethe is a good quarterback, but when you make him sit in the pocket and pass he becomes very average and the secondary could take advantage of that.
Injuries on the offensive side of the ball will also effect the Bulls this week. They lost senior offensive tackle Walt Walker with a sprained MCL for 2-4 weeks. His loss is very devastating to the Bulls offensive line, which has had injuries since the beginning of the year. of the 7 sacks that the Knights got on Groethe last Thursday, 5 came after Walker was out of the game. Groethe will need to be able to feel that pressure and move around to avoid it. The Bulls also lost their top wide out Taurus Johnson for 2-3 weeks with an ankle sprain. Johnson led the Bulls in receptions and yards so far on the year. While this loss is a problem, the Bulls have spread the ball out a lot this year and Groethe has confidence in other guys. Amari Jackson will need to step up and make some plays in the receiving game and freshman Hester Jr. will also need to help out and give Groethe a good target to throw to.
The final aspect of this game that may be the most important will be special teams. UConn returner Larry Taylor is the best in the nation in returning kicks and punts. Last week the Bulls struggled in their special teams coverage and if they do that this week, Taylor will take the ball to the house. The Bulls will need to have great coverage on the kicks and perhaps kick away from Taylor if possible. Let's hope when they do kick it, the Refs remember what a fair catch symbol looks like though.