The Bulls are headed into a bye week before heading up to Hartford to face the Huskies and without overstating, the credibility of USF is on the line. The first 4 weeks of the 2011 season had turned a lot of heads, with many analysts beginning to pick USF to win the Big East. However, after the 44-17 drubbing by Pitt, many fans across the Tampa Bay area said that this is the Bulls team that they have become accustomed to, big hype early in the season but when the cameras are on (especially in conference play) they fail to deliver.
There were some red flags going into Pitt, mainly the lack of protection by the offensive line. In the UTEP game, the 373 yards rushing USF had, covered up the fact that BJ Daniels was constantly being hit and rushed out of the pocket. This was a lower tier team from Conference USA that was causing such pressure and disruption. The Panther defensive front is significantly larger and watching last Thursday night, it became obvious that this line is not as good as the numbers had led us to believe.
In the Second half, the Pitt defense realized that the USF OLine could not handle the pressure, leading them to stack 8-9 in the box to blitz on nearly every play. What followed was a long night for Daniels and the South Florida offense. Daniels did all that he could to make something out of absolutely nothing. If he tried to get the ball off earlier to avoid the sack, the ball would either be off target or dropped by the young receiver. If he tried to scramble, BJ was stopped in his tracks for a loss.
If the offensive line can not step up to handle the pressure that the rest of the Big East will be dialing up, this season for USF will not be a pretty one and all the credibility received for the Notre Dame win….Will be nullified.
Another large question mark looking back at the Pitt game was the use of speedster Lindsey Lamar, he had been developing all season long into an offensive weapon that is able to line up anywhere and be productive. Versus UTEP, Lamar touched the ball 7 times for 121 yards and 2 TDs. Against Pitt…only 2 times for 16 yards. Lindsey is a player that must receive a decent amount of touches because of his ability to take it to the house on any given play. That is a number that must go up if the Bulls are to have some offensive threats and success.
This bye week is coming at a crucial time for USF. Their credibility is already damaged after laying yet another egg in the spotlight, but the ripple effect (with Conference Realignment in full swing) could be monumental if the ship is not righted for the UCONN game in 2 weeks.