We all know the story by now. South Florida, like Oregon, was ranked #2 in the country at one point. Like Oregon, they fell from grace soon thereafter with a thereafter with a three game losing streak. Unlike Oregon, those losses weren't due to injuries, they were due to being able to pull games out against decent teams. The three losses--none of which were by more than a touchdown--came against Rutgers, UConn, and Cincinnati, the first two on the road. They won at Auburn, and held West Virginia, who runs a very similar offense to Oregon, to 13 points. This team has been good all year. And, despite that midseason bump in the road, come into this game with confidence, winning three straight.
Looking at that West Virginia score, lets start with the USF defense. According to USF's DC, they are focused on one thing, and that's stopping Jonathan Stewart. That's a wise plan, as Snoop needs at least 150 yards for Oregon to have a shot at this thing. And that's no easy task. The defense has been the Bulls' bread and butter all year--326 ypg, and only 112 on the ground. West Virginia, with their fantastic rushing offense, got a paltry 3.9 ypc against them. Look for the to stack the box and force Roper to beat them. On the plus side, the Ducks should have more receivers availiable than they have in awhile--Williams, Strong, Pflugrad, Maehl, Jones, and possibly Cameron Colvin. But we need JStew to be as fantastic against USF as he was against OSU to have a shot at this one. Remember, OSU had one of the best rushing defenses in the country, and Snoop shredded them on one leg.
For South Florida, it all starts with George Selvie. The sophomore leads the nation in both sacks and tackles for loss. The rest of their defense isn't full of household names, but they have been suffocating all year. Their corners and linebackers are good enough that they allow the defensive line to penetrate to get running backs and quarterbacks in the backfield. The pressure has forced opposing QBs into throwing a whopping 23 picks this year. Its hard to believe that Oregon's inexperienced QBs won't fall victim. As I said before, JStew needs at least 150 rushing yards, and Jaison Williams needs to hold onto the ball for the offense to put up any kind of a fight in this game.
Seeing as I'm not expecting Oregon's offense to light it up in this game, the defense really needs to step it up. That was the most frustrating thing in the Civil War--the offense was great, and the defense was woeful. USF averages a very good 421 ypg and 35 ppg. They haven't faced a ton of defenses as good as Oregon's this year, so it should be a good test. Their QB, Matt Groethe, is a lot like Jake Locker. He's not quite as speedy, but is a better passer. He's the Bulls' leading rusher at 832 yards and 10 TDs on the season, and also threw for almost 2500 yards. They're fairly balanced with 193 rushing yards a game, and 228 passing yards per game. If Groethe has a chink in his armor, its that he can be picked off, as he has thrown almost as many interceptions (12) as touchdowns (13). USF actually turns the ball over quite a bit, but have overcome it because their defense is so good. When they were very vulnerable this season, during their losing streak, they were turning the ball over left and right.
If these two teams played this game ten times, I'd bet USF would win seven. But that gives Oregon a puncher's chance. Roper doesn't have to do anything great. He just has to take care of the football and let JStew carry the offense. The defense needs to play the way they did pre-Oregon State. If Oregon can win the turnover margin by two, they win the game. If not, USF will extend Oregon's bowl misery.