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September 10, 2008

Olin's Notebook: Selvie waiting to break out

This time last season, South Florida All-America defensive end George Selvie already had 5.5 sacks. After two games this season, he's behind that pace by 5.5 sacks.

Selvie, who was the second in the nation with 14.5 sacks in 2007, has none so far. He might be leading the nation in blocks absorbed, though.

"I've been double-teamed and triple-teamed," he said. "I get hit by the tight end, the backs, the tackle and guard. They're throwing everything at me. I'm going to keep playing hard and the sacks are going to come sooner or later.

"But we're winning, and as long as we keep winning football games, it's all good."

If the Bulls, who have beaten UT-Martin and UCF, are going to improve to 3-0, a dominating effort from Selvie might be required.

When USF faces Kansas on Friday night, the Bulls' No. 1 concern is containing Jayhawks quarterback Todd Reesing.

"They have a great quarterback, so we have to do everything we can to stop him," Selvie said.

Last season, Reesing passed for 3,486 yards and 33 touchdowns en route to leading Kansas to a 12-1 finish and Orange Bowl victory. But last season he was protected by tackles Anthony Collins, an All-America, and Cesar Rodriguez, a three-year starter. Both are gone and have been replaced by redshirt freshmen Jeff Spikes and Jeremiah Hatch. Spikes, at left tackle, will line up across from Selvie.

Selvie said he's been cramming to learn as much about Spikes as possible for in-game conversation. Getting inside an offensive lineman's head makes it easier to get into a quarterback's face.

"I check out (the opposing tackle's) size, his weight. I find out where he went to high school," Selvie said. "I want to get a feel for the guy. I read his high school stats and all that stuff in the (media) guide. I'll find out all I can and try to use it against him."

For the record, Spikes is 6-6 and 314 pounds and attended Harvey High School in Painesville, Ohio. He was an all-state performer while helping his team finish 6-4 his senior year.

"I always talk to offensive linemen," Selvie continued. "We get into some decent conversations. If they're from a different state, I'll ask him if he's tired or if he's hot.

"I'm going to play hard. And because he's young, he might not be ready to play like we play."

USF has built its reputation by knocking off higher-ranked opponents. Last season, the Bulls upset No. 17 Auburn and No. 5 West Virginia. In '06, they defeated No. 7 West Virginia. In 2005, they beat No. 9 Louisville. They get another chance against the No. 13 Jayhawks, who defeated USF 13-7 in 2006. Since that game Kansas is 17-6 and USF is 17-7.

But a USF victory over Kansas wouldn't necessarily be considered an upset.

"We can't sneak up on anybody any more," Selvie said. "Everyone has seen us win big games. We're not just that team that plays down in Tampa anymore. Teams come prepared for us like any other big game."

Of course, Selvie is preparing, too.

"Every game is the biggest of my life," he said. "I love just going out there and getting after the quarterback. That's what our defense is about. (Kansas') offense can score some points and they have a great quarterback, so we've just got to get after him."

RANDOM THOUGHTS

Rarely can a non-conference game in mid-September be considered a must-win, but this week's game against Rice qualifies for Vanderbilt. The Commodores, off to a 2-0 start, are trying to end a 27-year bowl drought. Doing that will require Vandy win every game it's supposed to win and a couple that could go either way. Playing in the SEC is tough enough, but the Commodores haven't always been able to win the games they should. Take that 17-15 loss to Middle Tennessee State in 2005, for example.

Badgers beware: Wisconsin travels to face Fresno State this week, and past trips out west would indicate trouble ahead. Last year the Badgers struggled to win 20-13 at UNLV, and those Rebels finished 2-10. In 2004, Wisconsin barely eked by Arizona 9-7 in Tucson. Arizona finished 3-8.

Minnesota is showing signs of improvement. Not only have the 2-0 Gophers doubled last season's victory total, but last week they held Bowling Green to 17 points. Minnesota did not hold any of its opponents to fewer than 21 points last season. And don't forget that Bowling Green beat Pittsburgh 27-17 in the season-opener.

No schedule is better-suited for a team's needs than Texas' slate. The Longhorns, who ranked 110th in pass defense last season, are starting two freshmen safeties. So far, they've faced Florida Atlantic and UTEP, which both had top-30 passing offenses in '07. They have upcoming games against Arkansas and Rice, which are among the top 25 passing offenses this year. The Longhorns' young defensive backs need to get as much work as possible in preparation for a four-game stretch against Oklahoma, Missouri, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech.

Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree and Missouri's Jeremy Maclin are generally considered the top receivers in the country. But Oklahoma State's Dez Bryant is making a strong bid for inclusion. He's leading the Big 12 with 326 receiving yards on 16 catches and three touchdowns. He also has returned a punt for a touchdown.

Maryland has scored four touchdowns in two games, and perhaps the Terps should anticipate more sputtering this week against California, which held Washington State to three points last week. But wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey is averaging 22.9 yards on seven catches thus far and had an 80-yard scoring catch last week. California allowed Michigan State's Mark Dell 202 receiving yards two weeks ago.

Running backs will look forward to playing Oregon State's defense. The Beavers had to replace eight starters from last season's defense and the transition hasn't been smooth. A week after allowing Stanford's Toby Gerhart to rush for 147 yards, Oregon State gave up 141 yards and three rushing touchdowns to Penn State's Evan Royster. Once would be a bad day. Twice raises red flags, especially with several teams featuring dynamic running backs coming up on the schedule. If a Hawaii running back rushes for more than 140 yards this week, the Beavers' rushing defense might be a lost cause. Hawaii's leading rusher, Nebraska transfer Leon Wright-Jackson, has gained 67 yards in two games.

This week's game against Washington State provides Baylor an opportunity to post a non-conference victory over a team from a "Big Six" conference for the first time in 10 seasons. The Bears defeated N.C. State 33-30 in 1998. Since then, they've lost to Boston College, Minnesota, California and Washington State in non-conference games. They did beat USF in 2000, but that was before the Bulls joined the Big East.

BEEF OF THE WEEK

What would happen if the official who penalized Washington quarterback Jake Locker for throwing the football in the air after a touchdown was in another line of work? If he were a justice of the peace, he'd annul a marriage after the bride threw her bouquet. If he were an educator, he'd revoke diplomas after students tossed their graduation caps.

Obviously, like almost everyone else, I found it ridiculous that Locker was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct after his last-second touchdown. Locker didn't intend to taunt the Cougars. He was simply excited, and when he celebrated the ball went skyward only to drop back on top of him.

Then the flag was thrown by Pac-10 referee Larry Farina, who said he had to call the penalty. The rule book calls for a penalty when the ball is thrown into the air. Perhaps, but common sense should apply, too.

Clinging so rigidly to the letter of the law is like a cop giving a speeding ticket to a guy rushing his wife to the hospital to have a baby. Technically, yes, it's speeding. But the circumstances should be taken into consideration.

COACH WATCH

HE'S HOT: Right now, Skip Holtz is the leading candidate for national coach of the year honors after guiding East Carolina to back-to-back victories over Virginia Tech and West Virginia. Though the Pirates were 8-5 and won a bowl last season, they're on their way to becoming the "surprise" team of the year. They will be in the BCS discussion until they lose if they lose. Holtz is in his fourth season at ECU. He probably won't be there for a fifth.

HE'S FEELING THE HEAT: Maryland has managed only 14 points in each of its two games against Delaware and Middle Tennessee State. Next is California, which has a solid defense and an explosive offense that has already produced three 80-yard touchdown runs. If the Terps get buried at home, fans might start to turn on coach Ralph Friedgen, who has drawn criticism after three losing records in the past four seasons.

QUICK HITTERS

Clemson starting offensive tackle Chris Hairston bruised a knee in a motor-scooter accident last weekend and isn't expected to play against North Carolina State on Saturday. He'll likely be replaced by freshman Landon Walker, which would give the Tigers three freshmen in the starting offensive line. Freshmen Mason Cloy and David Smith are the starting guards. It is believed that Clemson hasn't started three freshmen offensive linemen since 1943, when its entire junior and senior classes were drafted for World War II.

North Carolina State quarterback Russell Wilson is expected back in the starting lineup when the Wolfpack faces Clemson. Wilson suffered a concussion against South Carolina two weeks ago and missed last week's victory. But the Wolfpack won't have tailbacks Toney Baker or Jamelle Eugene, and tight end Matt Kushner is doubtful.

Kansas starting cornerback Kendrick Harper was released from the hospital last Sunday, but his status for Friday's game against USF is uncertain. Harper injured his neck in last Saturday's victory over Louisiana Tech and was taken from the field on a stretcher. He was released from the hospital after undergoing a series of tests.

Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel needs 52 passing yards this week against Nevada to break the school's career record of 8,799 yards held by Brad Smith. Daniel will be boosted by the return of wide receiver Danario Alexander, who has been out rehabilitating from ACL surgery.

Nebraska starting defensive end Barry Turner is out for the season after breaking a bone in his left leg last week. He is eligible for a medical redshirt and could play for the Huskers next season. Texas backup defensive tackle Lamarr Houston has been reinstated after serving a one-game suspension for a drunken driving arrest. He will play on Saturday against Arkansas.

Texas A&M starting quarterback Stephen McGee suffered a slight separation of his right (throwing) shoulder in last week's win over New Mexico. But an MRI showed that the injury isn't as severe as feared and he hasn't been ruled out of the Aggies' Sept. 20 game against Miami. McGee has made 29 consecutive starts.

Ricky Stanzi, who opened the season as the backup, has been named Iowa's starter over Jake Christensen for Saturday's game against Iowa State. Stanzi started last week's 42-0 win over Florida International and passed for 162 yards with three touchdowns.

Washington starting strong safety Darin Harris suffered a concussion in last week's game against BYU and isn't expected to return to action until Sept. 27.

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.



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