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The MAC’s one shining moment

Who would have thought that on a weekend the where Ball State gets a bowl bid the bigger story would be our bronze stalk rival Northern Illinois.Yes, your Ball State Cardinals are less than three weeks away from winning, cough, I mean playing in a bowl game against Central Florida. For those who were able to stomach the disinteresting Conference USA championship, you saw how UCF is not exactly strong. If the Cards can heal up they should take this one.

Losing to NIU in October actually scored Ball State a big pay check. Nice loss Cards!

Losing to NIU in October actually scored Ball State a big pay check. Nice loss Cards!

Plenty of other news overshadowed the bowl bid. Specifically, the Northern Illinois Huskies flipping the bird at the BCS. Kent State would have done the same had it had been on the other side of an epic MAC Championship Friday.

Northern jumped from 21 to 15 in the BCS standings thanks to teams like Texas, Nebraska, and UCLA losing.

During the week leading up to the MAC Championship game, ESPN did everything to promote the game talking how the winner could bust the BCS. Once that fantasy became a reality the worldwide leader in talking heads took a different tune.

Next thing I knew people I have been watching on College Gameday my whole life began ripping the Huskies a new one. Instead of talking about how monumental this was for a small schools everywhere it was all NIU does not belong and never will belong.

Does NIU belong in the BCS? If Louisville and Wisconsin belong then they absolutely do. Heck, we were close Saturday night to a 6-6 Georgia Tech Tech team knocking off Florida State in the ACC championship. Had the Yellow Jackets won would Jesse Palmer tell them to go away too?

Instead all ESPN could talk about was how Kansas was the only good win NIU had all year and how it lost to Iowa. The Iowa game was at the start of the year when the Huskies were breaking in a new quarterback. Why did no one on ESPN mention that?

As Jordan Lynch adjusted, NIU became even better than they were a year ago.

No one could admit that the MAC is simply better than the Big East and has gotten to the point where winning in conference matters. Northern beat Ball State, Kent State, and Toledo. All are good teams who would have finished high in the Big East conference this year. Kent State won at Rutgers. Toledo beat Cincinnati, Western Michigan beat Connecticut, and Ball State beat South Florida involving what might have been the most memorable touchdown grab in Muncie.

Don’t forget Ohio’s win over Penn State. Penn State actually finished 8-4 which inflated the MAC’s rankings with the computers. Even Central Michigan got in on the act topping Iowa on the road. And of course, Ball State beat the school from Bloomington with the ugly logo.

Bottom line, the MAC killed it in non conference action this year and had a whopping seven bowl eligible teams this year. The best part all seven got in.

That is a good conference. More worthy than the geography challenged Big East of having an automatic bid.

You might not like it ESPN, but as Dr. Phil would say in a dumb car commercial, “Tough tinsel.”

As for the game Ball State and the MAC has a lot on the line with this year’s Orange Bowl. If Northern is blown out then we have some credibility issues going forward. From observing the Big Ten the last few years, having a lack of credibility from bad bowl defeats can cripple a conference for future postseasons.

On the other side if Northern does well then I would not be surprised if another conference makes a play for the Huskies. As desperate as the Big East and Conference USA have been the last few weeks, an invitation is probably already in the mail. Tulane and East Carolina? Really Big East?

Maybe ESPN was intentionally bashing NIU Sunday night in their bowl selection show to drum up interest for the game. Think about it. If Oklahoma was playing Florida State it would just be another BCS bowl with no implications on the national championship. Instead the Orange bowl is now highly intriguing. It is similar to the Fiesta bowl with Boise State and Oklahoma a few years ago. How many other Fiesta Bowl games can you recall? That game and ….

In short, it’s a big game. Especially with the money being pumped in. Maybe Ball State can stop charging student fees? HAHA!

Rick Majerus

The other big news for Ball State this weekend was the passing of a former coaching great. When Rick Majerus coached Ball State to the sweet sixteen I was in diapers. Instead I only know him as a rotund man coaching Utah against my Kentucky Wildcats in big games.

Whenever Majerus would come in conversations I had with Muncie natives their eyes would light up. That pretty much says it all. Majerus did for the basketball program what Brady Hoke did for the football program. If anyone has any Majerus stories please share them in the comments.

Well Central Florida I guess we are no longer friends for the next few weeks. May the best team win. Oh wait, that’s us.

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Can a MAC team play in a BCS bowl game?

The 2011 season was good year for the MAC, but 2012 has been incredible.

Friday night, two MAC teams will battle it out ranked in the top 21 of the BCS standings. Ironically, they are the two MAC schools that squeaked by Ball State this season.

Ball State may be playing NIU here, but that MAC logo on the field is kicking some serious keister.

For the conference it is a huge moment. If Kent State wins there is a chance the Flashes could move up high enough in the rankings to score a BCS bid.

Just think how both Kent State and Northern Illinois should be undefeated.

All NIU had to do was take down Iowa on a neutral field. The same Iowa team that lost at home to the 4th best MAC West team in Central Michigan. The Huskies could not get it done.

All Kent State had to do was beat a 2-10 Kentucky team.  Granted, Kentucky was healthy in that game before the injury mafia moved in on every good player they had including their quarterback. Yeah I’m not bitter about that or anything.

For Ball State fans it is humbling that the year where the Cards go 9-3, (6-2 MAC) a conference championship is out of reach. I don’t think of it that way. Instead I see how good the conference has become and finishing third carries weight now.

Remember when the MAC only had three teams in the bowls? Many fans of the BSC conferences felt three was too much.

Now the MAC is going for SIX bowl teams in 2012. Double what people use to think was outrageous.

Kent State even beat Rutgers in New Jersey. Rutgers is currently slated as the Big East champion that will play in the BCS. And Kent State is clearly better than them.

News came down this month that the Big East will lose their automatic BCS berth in the 2014 season. Instead the MAC, Sun Belt, Big East, Mountain West, and Conference USA will battle it out for a spot.

That may not sound like big news but I think this opens the door a crack wider for a MAC team to get into the country club of whatever the BCS turns into. Currently, it is a four-team playoff with four additional bowls adding up to 12 teams with a piece of the postseason pie.

The four-team playoff is out of reach but the other bowls may be closer than ever.

In 2008, Ball State was undefeated and did not have much of a chance at getting into a BCS game. Would that change in the new system? Perhaps, but there are some key differences.

  1. 1. The Big East loses it’s edge in recruiting. For Ball State this means the Louisville Cardinals, and Cincinnati Bearcats no longer have an advantage in gobbling up local talent. Since I hate those two teams I can’t think of anything better than to say EAT IT!
  2. 2. With Boise State in another conference it may be tougher for the Broncos to go undefeated. Who other than the Broncos scare you in those five conferences we previously mentioned? East Carolina? Troy State? Louisiana Tech? Any random school with a question mark?
  3. 3. The MAC is the most stable out of the five conferences. The Big East and Conference USA is why geography teachers think no one pays attention in their classes. The Mountain West is going through a lot of changes and the Sun Belt is still the Sun Belt. The MAC has plenty of rivalries developed and the league is great fit for all the schools with the exception of UMass. Why are the Minutemen here again?
  4. 4. Television matters. I think I was able to find every Ball State game on the internet this year or on some obscure cable channel. The argument that small schools can’t get exposure does not work anymore. The MAC may not be making much in terms of TV revenue, but the bigger goal is to get their name out. The MAC is succeeding in that. Hell even Eastern Michigan is on TV so we can laugh at their fan base. Before I only had rumors of EMU fans. Thanks to the ESPN 3, I know that at least 20 of them exist.

A MAC team may still not be able to compete for a national championship but they may closer to relevancy among the football world than ever before. Especially if a school emerges as a team that can take that automatic bid. Perhaps Ball State in say 2014.

So kick back Friday night and enjoy the MAC championship. Don’t be bitter that Ball State is not there are a lot of positives in play. Then watch a Big East game for laughs. Those guys are hilarious. Sounds like a good weekend.

The Final Word on South Florida

Willie Snead earned the game ball Saturday with 11 catches for 135 yds and one very big TD. (Photo credit: Jordan Kartholl, The Star Press)

On Saturday afternoon, the eyes of the nation shifted to the MAC. That small little conference from the rust belt with perhaps the strangest geographic footprint this side of next year’s Big East, often relegated to paycheck driven cannon fodder for the BCS conferences, mattered. Could it be? Was it really possible that the MAC was trending on Twitter on a national level? Was it possible that the Big East (twice), the Big Ten, and the Big 12 all suffered defeat at the hands of MAC schools? Yes, indeedy, and the Ball State Cardinals pitched in by knocking off the South Florida Bulls, a Big East member, and only the second BCS automatic qualifying conference member to ever be beaten by Ball State.

How big was the win? That depends on what measuring stick you look at. From a season perspective, it’s big because it was this week’s opponent, keeps the Cardinals above .500, builds momentum for the heart of the MAC schedule, and guarantees no worse than a .500 out of conference record. Even the crowd made for a positive bullet point, as the attendance looked quite full on television, and was announced at 16,000+, sure to increase after this victory. Of course, the scope of this win is much greater than this season or rear ends in seats at the Scheu, and that’s where its magnitude begins to really set in.

At its most basic level, it alerts the doubters in the MAC and beyond that this is a team significantly improved in a significantly short amount of time. Are we to the level of 2008 dominance or results yet? Probably not. But I’d say we’re closer to the 2008 version of the Cardinals than the 2009 or 2010 versions. This victory cements that notion. This victory gives a senior class that has been through literally everything imaginable from a football perspective a capstone moment to their careers. This victory gives the Pete Lembo experiment in Muncie a passing grade written in permanent marker.

Was this the biggest win in program history as some have claimed? That’s hard to say. Off the top of my head and dealing only with the modern era, I’d say 07 Navy, 08 Indiana, and 10 Indiana are wins that are near the top of the list with this one in terms of out of conference. There are a host of in conference games, most from 2008 that also are vying for the top spot. Where you rank it is inconsequential. That we are even able to have the conversation speaks volumes about where this program has come in just a year and a half.

In some respects, the win will not be as noticed as it should because of the rest of the MAC and the victories they were able to pull out against teams like Iowa, Kansas, and Connecticut. But at the end of the day, this will be a game that folks will look back on for years to come as the defining moment of the 2012 season. Each season has those moments that people recall as the definitive game or moment for a given time. For me, 2007 will always be a blocked field goal against Navy. 2008 will always be fireworks over the Scheu against Western Michigan. 2012 just might be a corner fade route caught one-handed by Willie Snead. Well done, Cards.

The final word for USF…

  • Eternal

    n.

    1. Something timeless, uninterrupted, or endless.

Grabbing the Bull by the Horns

Horactio Banks with the carry. When a MAC team can run on Big East boys it might be time to give us an automatic bid.

You cannot make this stuff up.

A Ball State team that muffed the opening kickoff a year ago against South Florida came back around and won in stunning fashion Saturday.

Is it a top five victory in school history? Top three?

Ball State has defeated a BCS school not named Indiana, and who would have thought it would be a team that defeated Notre Dame a year earlier. Not a team named Duke or Vanderbilt.

Fact: Two Florida players on Ball State’s roster won the game. Receiver Willie Snead was too short at 5’11” to be a Bull I guess. So was Corner Eric Patterson at 5’10” even though he clinched the game with his interception.  Whoops.

Fact: Keith Wenning was a one star recruit because he developed too late in high school. All the BCS schools passed him by except for … Stan Parrish. Yes we need to give a little credit here. At least something good came out of his two seasons. Meanwhile BCS teams all over the country are struggling at quarterback. Whoops.

Fact: The quickest guy on the field was receiver Jamill Smith, a Muncie native who was too small for a scholarship just about anywhere.  He racked up 162 all-purpose-yards against a BCS team that should have been loaded with freak athletes. Whoops.

Fact: Offensive lineman Kitt O’Brien, Dan Manick, and Cameron Lowry were also one star recruits. Yet they were the ones pushing around South Florida like a boss. There were some holding calls but who cares? The running backs had holes all day and Wenning was never in danger. The highly recruited South Florida boys gave up 6.1 yards per carry to running back Jahwan Edwards. Another Cardinal who did not have any scholarship offers from other FBS schools.  Whoops.

A blocked extra point against Ball State. Whoops

Fact: South Florida is coached by Lou Holtz’s son but was thoroughly outcoached by some guy who at FCS Elon two years ago. Whoops.

Fact: Four out of the five MAC West teams took it to a BCS school Saturday (EMU is disowned untill its first win). All of them dwarf the MAC in terms of resources, boosters, budgets, facilities, and television exposure but they all lost to what should have been inferior opponents. Whoops.

This is my favorite part of college sports. Seeing underdogs prove that they we never underdogs at all.

Ball State was the underdog, but it proved that it should have been the favorite at home.

I asked a friend how this was happening. He said to “Just enjoy it. Don’t think about it.”

He was right. For those of us who watch ESPN at will we fool ourselves into believing schools with prestigious conference affiliations are superior. It does not matter if you are BCS or MAC. All that mattered Saturday is your Cardinals are 3-1 with a bowl invitation about to be mailed from the UPS Store.

Even if Ball State gets a bowl or wins the MAC championship, it might not top the feeling of the South Florida win.

This was Ball State winning beating a big name team in Scheumann Stadium. On a night where over 16,000 fans actually showed up.

The north end zone: where amazing happens

Willie Snead’s touchdown catch is something we will be talking about for a long time. It was Ball State football’s version of Jimmy Chitwood knocking down a jumper to win State.

Despite the cold temperatures, fans were sticking around out on the field. I witness two kids no more than 10 each trying to recreate Snead’s catch in the left corner of the north end zone. When was the last time kids in Muncie wanted to recreate a Ball State football play? When was the last time kids in Muncie cared about Ball State football? 2008? Never?

It’s going to be a long drive back to Tampa. The Bulls will be okay. It’s not like they will be playing Florida State next week. Wait…

Something special is brewing in Muncie with this team and program. Instead of analyzing it, it might be time to just sit back and enjoy it.

No BCS team can just waltz into the cornfields of East Central Indiana and expect a win.

It is pretty enjoyable to say that.

Nathan Pace is a 2012 Ball State graduate and writes for the New Castle Courier-Times.

The Key to the BSU-USF Game

For those of you wondering, like I am known to do from time to time what a particular game comes down to, often times it’s hard to pinpoint the exact thing that would make people worry, wonder, fret, or celebrate. However, this game at Scheumann Stadium at 4:30 today for the Cardinals comes down to one thing… BJ Daniels. Or more specifically, which BJ Daniels shows up.

There’s SUPERAMAZEBALLSHEISMANTROPHYHOPEFUL BJ Daniels. We saw him last year. Notre Dame saw him last year. We do not need to see him today. However, there is another side of BJ Daniels, don’t you know? A side that makes South Florida fans huddle in fear and the green and gold clad masses to band together around the shared sadness and shame. Hopefully coming Saturday afternoon to a stadium near you…

EVIL B.J. DANIELS!

Perhaps you’ve seen this mythical creature. The most recent sighting was September 13, when Evil B.J. threw three picks to the Rutgers defense and was perhaps more responsible than any other for that Thursday night upset. He’s been known to pop up from time to time, and with the pending showdown with Florida State just a week away, perhaps SuperAmazeBallsB.J. will yield to an unfocused looking ahead EvilB.J.. A BSU fan can only hope.

(Ed. Note: If you had the ability to bet on OTP, the odds that a post that contained the phrase SuperAmazeBallsB.J. would be solely about football and not even PG-13 in the slightest would have had to have been 1,000,000 to 1. -Ed.)

Countdown to USF

Pete Lembo is off to a bang up start. Can it continue in Tampa?

On Saturday, Cardinal fans the nation over get the chance to be a witness to what could be arguably the biggest win in program history. A victory means the Cardinals have defeated a nationally ranked team. It means the Cardinals have added another tombstone in the graveyard of BCS automatic qualifiers to fall at the hands of Ball State. It means that the last few years are about to be long forgotten if the first two games of 2011 are any indicator. It means that Pete Lembo could probably run for governor. Of course, that gigantic megahuge tremendous win would be quite the surprise to the oddsmakers, the pundits, the South Florida faithful, and probably a large percentage of BSU fans. But if last weekend taught us anything it’s that this BSU team isn’t the BSU teams of the last two seasons. It taught us this roster is chock full of talent and skill. It taught us to once again believe in the Cardinal and White. Time to count you down to kickoff at USF…

5 Things You Should Know

  1. South Florida isn’t the typical Big East team
    The Big East has gotten quite the bad rap in recent memory as a conference loaded with paper tigers who have no business being considered among the nation’s elite, and for the most part they would be right. But USF is different. For a program that has only been playing football since 1997, South Florida has done it well and done it consistently since their inception. Now they have a tried and true winning coach in Skip Holtz, who is perhaps the most unappreciated and underrated coach in the country.
  2. If there was ever a time to catch USF in letdown mode, this is it
    One of, if not the, biggest wins in program history came last Saturday for the Bulls. By beating the Fighting Irish in South Bend, the Bulls have launched themselves not only into the polls, but the national conversation. How this team responds to the sudden interest by the talking heads and media types could make a significant difference in their preparation for Ball State.
  3. USF is trying its damndest to get people to this game
    The sports marketing department is working overtime to pub and sell this game. Tickets are available for just $6.20 per seat, there are fireworks after the game,  and judging by the choose your own seat application on their website, there isn’t a lot of tickets left. After last Saturday, it’s probably safe to assume that interest in the Bulls in the Tampa area is at an all-time high.
  4. There’s no place like home (openers) for the Bulls at Raymond James Stadium
    To call USF’s home stadium the friendly confines is not even adequate. The Bulls are 14-0 in Raymond James Stadium in home openers, with the average margin of victory at a staggering 32 points per game. Their closest home opener in the last five years was the 2007 contest against Elon, a 28-13 win, when Elon was coached by one Pete Lembo.
  5. Don’t be fooled by the low number of returning starters for USF
    The numbers of returning starters for the Bulls is only 11 across both units, but the number of starters and backups that saw game action and earned a letter last season leads the Big East. USF may not have a mass quantity of starters back, but they are a deep experienced team that is capable of rotating serviceable backups in without a dropoff in production.

4 Players You Should Know

  1. QB B.J. Daniels
    Daniels is a mobile QB capable of beating a team through the air or on the ground. Remember Dan Lefevour? The Cards have struggled with dual threats in recent memory.
  2. WR Evan Landi
    The leading returning receiver for the Bulls from last season, Landi was limited to just three catches against the Irish. One of those, however, was a TD, and Landi is a sure-handed tall target for Daniels.
  3. LB DeDe Lattimore
    The Bulls’ #2 tackler last season, Lattimore presents a key matchup for the BSU o-line. Capable of penetration, QB pressure, and tackles for loss, Lattimore may be the biggest hindrance to establishing a running game.
  4. SS Jon Lejiste
    Similar to Sean Baker, Lejiste is a hard hitter who has a nose for the football. A 3rd team All Big East selection last season, you’ll see Lejiste sent on blitz packages as well as playing coverage against the pass.

3 Ways We Win

  1. Follow the Notre Dame blueprint, without the weather or the turnovers
    The Fighting Irish held USF to 126 yards on the ground and 128 yards through the air. They also held the USF offense touchdown-less until early in the 4th quarter. Along the way, ND ran up over 500 yards of offense and held the Bulls to just 2-14 on 3rd downs. Notre Dame also averaged 4 yards per rush, a stat that I wouldn’t mind seeing repeated from the visiting team on Saturday.
  2. Minimize mistakes and turnovers
    The Fighting Irish learned the hard way that no matter how dominant the box score looks, five turnovers will kill you nearly every time. Making mistakes or turning the ball over at any point against any opponent is a bad thing, but doing it on the road against a ranked opponent takes an upset off the table and brings the dreaded blowout into play.
  3. Contain B.J. Daniels
    If Daniels breaks containment and runs unimpeded throughout the Ball State defense, that’s bad. Mobile QBs inherently present problems for the defense and open up the options for the offense. The Cardinal defense doesn’t necessarily have to  stop him, they just have to bend more than they break.

2 Cardinal Questions

  1. Can the offensive and defensive lines dominate their Big East counterparts like they did the Big Ten?
    Dominance was the word of the day as the offensive and defensive lines had their way with the opposition all night last Saturday. Now granted, the Hoosier lines aren’t your typical Big Ten space eaters, the will of those two Cardinal units was impressive and probably the biggest reason for the win. If the push on the line and the battle of the trenches is lopsided again, that’s a great chance for the Cardinals to shock some folks.
  2. Which wide receiver will be the go-to target for Wenning when the Cards take flight through the air?
    Irish receiver Michael Floyd burned the Bulls for 154 yards and 2 TDs last weekend, and there’s no reason to think that this Cardinal receiving corps can’t find similar opportunities and chances. If Briggs Orsbon  or Tori Gibson get loose for big numbers, then it could be a long night indeed for the Bulls and their fans.

1 Bold Prediction
After last Saturday, I was careful to not got swept up in the emotion of the moment and throw all caution to the wind in terms of my expectations and hopes for this season. Had you asked me last Saturday night after the IU victory and more than a few Fat Tires at Scotty’s, I would have told you that South Florida has no chance. Rationality took over after a greasy breakfast and some Gatorade, but it wasn’t the gloom and doom that seems to have surrounded the program as recent as 9 months or so ago. USF is quite beatable, and in fact, had the Irish not turned the ball over five times, they wouldn’t have walked out of South Bend with a victory. The IU game was virtually mistake free for the Cardinals and to expect that sort of perfection to continue may be a bit much. The Cardinals keep it close, and well within the spread, but walk out of Raymond James a 34-28 loser on Saturday evening. I’ve always said that not all losses are created equal, and with a result like that the passion and fire in this program continues unabated as the Cardinals become the prohibitive favorite for the MAC.

Enemy Recon: South Florida

Rocky the Bull gives Charlie Cardinal a run and that means a lot from us.

Saturday marks the return to the football field for the Cardinals after the beatdown of the Hoosiers in Lucas Oil Stadium last Saturday. This also marks the first game for OTP’s fearless leader that he’ll be able to devote time on Saturday to cheering the Cards on without interruptions like a family wedding or a bevy of IU coeds that were surprisingly impressed that a BSU football blogger not only existed but would spend the game at Scotty’s Brewhouse in Bloomington and then meet them at Kilroy’s on Kirkwood. But I digress.

On Saturday, the Cards battle the South Florida Bulls in a game that Vegas feels like won’t be remotely close, as USF was pegged at 23-point favorites at last check. That remarkably high spread probably is a combination of folks thinking USF is the real deal after their upset of Notre Dame and folks thinking IU is far worse than we did before that game last weekend. So rather than rely on the Vegas oddsmakers, we decided to reach out to our friends across the blogosphere at VoodooFive, the SBNation home of the USF Bulls. Our awesome questions and their equally awesome responses…

OverThePylon: First of all, congrats on the win versus Notre Dame. In looking at the box score and the flukey nature of the delays, the turnovers, and the dominance via the stats, is this a win that USF fans feel good about or is there reason for worry? More importantly, I assume the win was one of the biggest in program history. Agreed? Worried about a letdown?

Vodoo5: I think most USF fans will feel great about the win even though Notre Dame crippled themselves with so many mistakes. Coach Holtz preached throughout the week that the Bulls’ defense just needed the Irish to keep snapping the ball. As long as they kept the Irish out of the end zone it gave the Bulls an opportunity to capitalize on possible miscues, and they did that to perfection. On offense, the Bulls kept it simple with a grind it out game plan to keep the Irish from collecting a big play on defense. Just the way Skip drew it up.

I think this is easily one of the Top 5 victories in USF history. The wins over Auburn and West Virginia in 2007 and Florida State in 2009 I think are a little higher but there aren’t many opportunities to beat a team with a history like Notre Dame.

OTP: Fans of BCS conference teams usually look at the MAC like a team not to be worried about. What’s the feeling about this particular opponent in the USF fanbase?

V5: I don’t think USF fans will take Ball State lightly. The victory against Indiana on Saturday showed everyone that you guys are a quality opponent and I came away impressed from watching the game during the week. Any USF fan who thinks that the Bulls just need to show up to win is foolish.

OTP: If you were crafting a gameplan for the Cardinals, what areas offensively and defensively are ripe for exploiting on the Bulls?

V5: I think your gameplan against Indiana in the first half would be the way to go. USF is pretty thin at defensive back after you get past the starting four, and the Bulls are content with being nickled and dimed instead of giving up the big play. Also the Bulls are a little thin at DT due to injuries to Demi Thompson and Todd Chandler’s ineligibility so those zone reads with Edwards could be effective.

On defense, try to keep B.J. Daniels in the pocket. Although he did well last week, Daniels has been pressured into some bad decisions before if he can’t create something with his legs. If he’s able to break loose for a couple big runs, look out though.

OTP: Who are some key players that BSU fans need to watch to try and tell early the outcome of the contest based on their performance?

V5: On offense, the two people to look for is QB B.J. Daniels and WR Sterling Griffin. Daniels really had a good game against Notre Dame. Obviously the stats won’t show it, but B.J. went through his progressions well and almost always found the open receiver. Daniels ran the ball effectively when needed, and had a knack of picking up 4 yards on 3rd down when USF needed 3 by whichever means necessary.

Griffin was primed for a big 2010 season before he had a fluke ankle injury during summer workouts and was forced to redshirt last year. Sterling was in a position battle with Terrence Mitchell after spring practice, but he excelled in fall camp and solidified his spot on the roster. Griffin found a way to get open on Saturday, and Daniels rewarded him with a 8 catch, 75 yard day.

On defense, watch out for DE Ryne Giddins. The sophomore was the highest prep player to ever sign with USF straight out of high school, and is primed to breakout this season. If he’s able to get a sack on Keith Wenning early on in the game, it will free up our other DL like Porkchop Grissom and Patrick Hampton.

OTP: Predictions on not only the score but the flow of the game?

V5: The line for this game (USF -23) is absurd. I think Ball State will slow down the game as much as you can with the spread and keep this really close for 3 quarters, but USF will slowly pull away in the 4th. I think the Bulls win a tight one 34-24.

An opposing fanbase that’s respectful and thinks the Cards are legit?!? After our experience against the Hoosiers that’s such a refreshing change of pace. Definitely check out VoodooFive, and you can see our responses to their questions about the Cardinals here.

Better Know: South Florida

In recent memory, whenever the Cards squared off against an opponent from a BCS automatic qualifying conference, many assumed (and rightly so) that BSU was simply road kill fodder on another team’s journey to bowl eligibility. After all, it wasn’t until 2008 until the Cards were able to defeat a BCS AQ opponent. Their second victory last weekend was much like the first, as the IU Hoosiers fell at the hands of the Fighting Football Cardinals… again. Back in ’08, the Cards ran off 11 straight victories after that one, but the test in ’11 is a bit different. To get their 3rd BCS AQ win in program history, the Cards will need to knock off the South Florida Bulls, coming off a gigantic win at Notre Dame, in the second straight NFL stadium the Cards will play in. USF is getting attention from the national polls, ranked 22nd in the latest AP poll, and the majority of the nation is loving the Bulls after they beat the polarizing Fighting Irish. Saturday the Cards square off in the first true road test of the season, and it’s time to better know South Florida…

Team: South Florida Bulls
Record: (1-0)
Head Coach: Skip Holtz
Series: (0-0)
Last Meeting: This Saturday marks the first ever meeting between the Cardinals and Bulls

USF Head Coach Skip Holtz
… Skip Holtz (Notre Dame ‘86) is in his second year as the head coach at USF and in his 11th season as a collegiate head coach
… Holtz managed a 38-27 record as the head coach at East Carolina from 2005-09, and a 34-23 mark as the head mentor at Connecticut from 1994-98.

USF Stats & Randomness…
… B.J. Daniels completed 18-of-30 passes for 128 yards with one touchdown in the opener, while Sterli Griffin managed eight catches for 75 yards
… Demetri Murray rushed 14 times for 40 yards.

USF News & Trends…
… USF began its 2011 season with a 23-20 victory over Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind
… The Bulls return 45 letterwinners, including 12 starters from a 2010 team that posted an 8-5 overall record and 3-4 mark in the Big East Conference
… USF defeated Clemson 31-26 in the 2010 Meineke Car Care Bowl.

Know an ’11 Opponent: South Florida

In an effort to educate, inform, preview and most importantly, poke fun of those who dare add the Ball State Cardinals to their football schedule, OTP is proud to present the Know an ’11 Opponent series. Some things to note… this isn’t heavy lifting here with broken down statistics, game film replays, or random things like that. It’s still preseason after all, and that kind of analysis and evaluation is best saved for game week. So buckle up kiddies… time to Know an ’11 Opponent!

South Florida Bulls

If you’re like me, you look at the landscape of college football and quietly chuckle at the Big East. It’s only fitting, really, when you peruse the cast of characters that make up this “BCS Conference”. There’s perennial front-runner Pittsburgh, who was really only good for the chuckles provided by Dave Wannstedt and the inevitable late season loss that cost Pitt that next level of respect and status. There’s WVU who only provides a how to book for student conduct administrators for pretty much every other campus across the nation. Connecticut lost close to $2 million on their Fiesta Bowl trip last season, got blown out by Oklahoma, and then lost head coach Randy Edsall to his “dream job” at Maryland (which totally cannot be true). Cincinnati was the morbidly obese girl who got smoking hot through plastic surgery for a couple of years and then plumped back up the second she realized the guy she loved had his eyes on that Catholic chick up the street. Louisville, Rutgers and Syracuse have been locked in a proverbial battle of Big East mediocrity for a while now, each sneaking in a random not-so-awful season but always reverting back to the mean. So when BSU announced they were venturing to play Big East member South Florida, I was stoked. Sunny weather and a football team that didn’t really seem all that intimidating. Known mostly for their former head coach venturing somewhere between Psychoville and Crazytown on the sidelines, I was at least not extremely worried. Then I started reading and researching. Then I started to realize that a.) I don’t know as much as I thought I did and b.) it’s totally warranted to worry, which I totally started to do.

What Have You Done For Me Lately?
Nothing much, really. I mean, once they landed in the Big East in 2005, they’ve just went to 6 consecutive bowl games, won eight games the last three seasons, nine the two before those, and their .500 6-6 in ’05 was their worst since landing in a BCS automatic qualifier. Apparently, USF didn’t get the memo that when you go up in conference prestige you’re supposed to get pounded on for a few years. Last season was the first for Skip Holtz, and by all measures it was a successful one. The only losses for the Bulls came at the hands of ranked opponents Florida (#8) and West Virginia (#25) and eventual Fiesta Bowl participant Connecticut. For a program that hadn’t even played football at all until 1997, that’s a pretty impressive 14 years.

The Man Who Wears the Headset
Skip Holtz might as well change his name to DJ Khaled, because all he does is win. Back to back 9-win seasons and CUSA titles at East Carolina landed him this job at USF and if his first year is any indication it appears that success like that is on its way. I’ve always thought that coaching is really all about timing, and Holtz is hitting at just the right moment. Every other Florida school has experienced a bit of a drop off allowing him to close the gap between the other traditional powers and the Bulls. Add in the fact that USF competes in the Big East without a presumptive frontrunner or traditional powerhouse and its a recipe for success for Holtz and the Bulls. Overall, Holtz is 46-32. Of note, Holtz at USF is 4-1 off a loss, which could very possibly be the case on September 10 when the Cards venture to Tampa, as the season opener for the Bulls is at Notre Dame.

Players and Stats of Note
For USF, the lack of returning starters is actually pretty encouraging. With only five on the offense and six on the defense, it isn’t like this is a team loaded with returning starters. That’s the good news. The bad news is two-fold, really. The first piece of troubling news is that when you’re a successful program in the hotbed of Florida recruiting, replacing talented seniors is as easy as plugging in a talented sophomore or junior. It’s not like there’s a lack of fast talented athletes in the Sunshine State. The second piece of troubling news isn’t how many but rather who the Bulls return. They lose their top rusher and receiver from last season, but return the next highest 6 contributors in both categories. Defensively, the Bulls return 6 of 11, and do return their leading pass defender from ’10 in FS Jerrell Young (3 INTs) and DE Ryne Giddins had 3.5 sacks in just three starts last year.

If USF Football was a Musician…
I had to consult with OTP’s Edge for this one as he is the musical genius in this place. USF is a program that is consistently good. Not blow your skirt off awesome, but better than most. They aren’t flashy or glitzy to any degree, but there they are cranking out eight or nine wins and marching to their seemingly ever-present successful drum. Congrats, South Florida… you’re Ben Harper.

How Worried Are We?

Code Red for the Bulls. It’s not so much that USF is a juggernaut, but their talent, skill, and coaching is good enough to warrant no small amount of concern. They aren’t unbeatable, but I think it’s safe to say that if both teams show up and play their A game, it’s going to be difficult for the Cards to walk out of Raymond James Stadium a winner. However, with the right mix of Cardinal successes and USF miscues, it’s possible, and really, when playing a BCS conference team on the road and looking for only the 2nd such win in program history, possible is something I’ll settle for.

Enemy Recon
You like blogs, right? Of course you do. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t be here. Voodoo Five is your authority for all things USF related from the blogosphere as their representative in the SBNation army.  Their official athletics page can be found here.

Conference Champs and the Last Weekend of 09

Bittersweet. That’s how I would characterize this past weekend in college football around OTP Manor. To have great games on, beginning with Thursday’s Civil War is a fantastic way to spend a few days. To realize on Saturday as you’re soldiering through a Wisconsin-Hawaii blowout that after that there are only 35 FBS games left this season is a bit of a buzzkill. At least conference championship weekend brought the thunder and gave 2009 more of what it had all season long: upsets, upsets gone awry, and controversy.

More after the jump…

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