September 25, 2012

Know your opponent: South Florida

2012 Record: 2-2 (0-1 Big East)

Starters returning: 17 total, eight offensive, seven defensive, and two specialists

Breaking it down: Things have not quite gone the way South Florida head coach Skip Holtz has hoped they would during his third season in Tampa.

USF has lost its last two games, including an embarrassing 31-27 loss on the road to Ball State last weekend. Turnovers have played a large part in the mediocre start for the Bulls, who have lost three fumbles and thrown six interceptions in the first four games this season.

Still Florida State knows not to overlook it's in-state counterpart after USF defeated the Seminoles 17-7 in the only match-up between the two schools in 2009.

"We all remember it vividly," said senior quarterback EJ Manuel, who had just one carry in the loss. "We haven't forgot at all."

Manuel said Saturday's game won't be a revenge game, but FSU is motivated because it considers the game part of the unofficial Florida state championship race between the Sunshine State schools.

"We're looking to not, not necessarily payback or nothing like that because it's our next opponent, but we want to go out there and take care of business and play well," Manuel said.

Through the air

Player to watch:

QB B.J. Daniels (Sr.)

2012 Passing: 73-129 1,142 yards, 9 TDs, 6 interceptions

2012 Rushing:46 carries, 199 yards and 1 TD

It's safe to say that the USF offense goes as B.J. Daniels goes. The fourth-year starter from Tallahassee has accounted for 1, 341 yards of total offense so far this season, an average of 335.2 yards per game.

Interceptions have always been Daniels' biggest bugaboo-he's thrown 35 in 42 career games-and have hurt him this season, but FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher said he is a heck of a challenge for opposing defenses.

"He can run, he can throw, he's strong, he's competitive, he's a phenomenal athlete," Fisher said. "He can throw the ball long, long distances. No play is ever dead, no guy you can't reach. He can run, physically 217-218 pounds Like Tajh (Boyd)-we had a hard time getting Tajh on the ground-his arm is probably liver than Tajh's is. He can throw it farther, he can rip it, he's a dynamic player."

6-foot-1, 207-pound sophomore Andre Davis has been Daniels' top target this season. The Tampa native has 23 receptions for 309 yards and three touchdowns.

One-time FSU commit Terrence Mitchell has adjusted nicely to a position change after playing mostly defensive back in high school. He's hauled in 16 passes for 289 yards and a touchdown. Thanks a to a 58-yard reception against Rutgers, Mitchell is averaging 18.1 yards per catch.

Outside of Davis and Mitchell the Bulls don't have a player with more than seven receptions, but 12 other players have recorded at least one catch.

Pounding the ground

Player to watch:

RB Demetris Murray (Sr.)

2012 Rushing: 56 rushes for 207 yards and 3 TDs

The USF ground game has relied heavily on a pair of fifth-year seniors in Daniels and Demetris Murray. The bulls are averaging 4.2 yards per carry and 148.8 yards per game on the ground this season.

Murray has carried the bulk of the load and averages 3.7 yards per rush, has scored three times, and perhaps most impressively-has lost just one yard this season.

Daniels has run the ball 46 times this season for 199 yards (213 if you take out the 24 yards lost on sacks). He's scored just once and has a season-long run of 20 yards, but it's another dynamic that the FSU defense must be prepared for when the QB can take off and pick up yards.

Senior Lindsey Lamar has also been a spark for the USF ground game with 141 yards on just 23 carries. Lindsey has the Bulls' longest run of the year (35 yards), averages 6.1 yards per carry and has one touchdown. He also has five receptions for 80 yards and two touchdowns.

Getting defensive

Player to watch:

OLB DeDe Lattimore (Jr.)

2012 Stats: 36 tackles, 4.5 for loss and 2.5 sacks

The 2012 Bulls defense hardly resembles the stout unit that USF brought into Doak Campbell Stadium in 2009. Opponents are averaging 384 yards of total offense per game, 160 yards rushing, and 224 yards passing.

The one phase where the current USF defense does resemble past Bulls' defenses is the way they get after the quarterback. USF has nine sacks this season and has forced five fumbles, recovering four.

Junior outside linebacker DeDe Lattimore leads the way with 2.5 sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss.21 of Lattimore's 36 tackles have been unassisted and he's also blocked a kick this season.

Junior defensive end Ryne Giddins[db] has also provided plenty of pressure off the edge with 1.5 sacks. Senior OLB [db]Sam Barrington is also having a nice season with 27 tackles, three for loss, a sack, and two pass breakups.

JaQuez Jenkins has been the most productive defensive back for the Bulls with 15 tackles, one for loss, and a fumble recovery. Cornerback George Baker is off to a solid start as well with 15 tackles and a team-high four pass breakups.

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