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Reilly Gibbons could debut Saturday

Touted freshman OL Reilly Gibbons finally could be ready to make his USF debut Saturday against Syracuse.

The Stanford transfer was limited in preseason camp after undergoing a right-knee procedure during the offseason. But Coach Willie Taggart said Thursday the former St. Petersburg Catholic standout is fully recovered and has practiced without limitations for the last three weeks.

A four-star recruit in high school, Gibbons suited up for the first time in USF's 24-17 loss to Memphis last week and participated in warmups, but did not play.

"It could be any time now before he can get out there and play -- he's coming along really well," Taggart said. "He's been practicing full go. ... He hadn't had a training camp, so he's just getting some reps and getting accustomed to everything."

SCOUTING DUNGEY: The Orange will receive a major boost against the Bulls with the return of QB Eric Dungey, sidlined since taking a jarring blow to the head during the first half of an overtime victory against Central Michigan on Sept. 19.

Taggart praised the freshman dual threat's athleticism. Dungey racked up 534 total yards and six touchdowns in three games before the injury.

"He really understands what they're doing," Taggart said. "They do a good job of protecting him to where they don't have to ask him to do a lot...and he's done a good job running their offense."

ODDS AND ENDS: Taggart reiterated how important it will be for QB Quinton Flowers to utilize TEs Sean Price and Kano Dillon consistently against the Orange. "For a quarterback that can't necessarily see over the line all the time, it's great to have some big targets to throw the ball to," he said. ... Though he has had hiccups here and there, Taggart said he is pleased how Brynjar Gudmundsson has settled in at center.

AUDIBLE: "He's growing up and making better decisions (for) himself and it's paying off for him. ... I think that's just the start of something that we're going to see for a while. He can be the next great defensive end that came out of South Florida in the NFL like (Jason) Pierre-Paul was." -- Taggart on USF alumnus and current 49ers DE Aaron Lynch, who had a pair of sacks in San Francisco's loss Sunday to Green Bay.

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AAC Notebook: Could 'Conflict' backfire on Diaco?

Despite the jeers of many, Connecticut coach Bob Diaco has remained steadfast in his attempts to manufacture a rivalry with UCF.

Question is, will Saturday's Huskies-Knights clash in Orlando generate a rivalry for the league or ridicule for Diaco?

The latter scenario could prevail if UCF (0-5, 0-1 American Athletic Conference), expected to have starting QB Justin Holman (fractured finger) back, earns its first victory of the season Saturday against UConn (2-3, 0-1) in a game Diaco has dubbed "The Conflict" (shortened from "Civil Conflict" so as not to offend anyone).

A Knights triumph would represent an astounding -- and ironic -- reversal of fortune. UConn earned its lone AAC triumph last year -- and handed UCF its first league loss ever -- with a 37-29 upset in Hartford. Months later, Diaco was designing a trophy for the rivalry and garnering national attention.

On Monday, he said he'll bring the trophy to Orlando on the team plane. O'Leary, meantime, said he hasn't even mentioned the rivalry angle to his team.

"It's only a thing if it's reciprocated, and either way is fine," Diaco said.

"For me it hasn't (lost any luster) and for our team it hasn't. We have the utmost and ultimate respect for Central Florida. They've been competing in the conference for three years, and they have two losses total. So that's who they are, we know that's who they are, and that's the team we're gonna prepare against."

SNAP FOR THE AGES: Tulane sophomore LS Aaron Golub made history Saturday when he became the first legally blind player to appear in a Division I-A football game. Golub snapped on the Green Wave's final extra point in the fourth quarter of their 45-17 romp of UCF. A brief clip of the play can be found here.

"It was funny because I didn't think anybody knew what was going on," Tulane coach Curtis Johnson said. "But everybody knew. They just ran over to him and everybody was hugging him and carrying him off the field. It was a special moment. That was the most pleasant moment of the day for me."

LET'S PLAY TWO: East Carolina coach Ruffin McNeill said earlier this week he intends to remain with a two-quarterback system even after junior college transfer James Summers led a staggering rally off the bench in Saturday's 49-23 romp of SMU.

The Pirates trailed 23-7 when junior starter Blake Kemp (10-for-16, 96 yards, one TD) was replaced by Summers, who totaled 238 yards and accounted for four TDs (two rushing, two passing).

"I like the way both of them play off of one another," said McNeill, whose team plays Saturday night at BYU. "I think both of them give us a great opportunity. I think they complement each other very well. I think they both make our team and they make each other better."

ODDS AND ENDS: By week's end, Memphis (5-0, 2-0) -- idle this Saturday -- will have gone a year without a loss. The Tigers' last defeat was Oct. 11, 2014, against Houston. ... Tulsa (2-2, 0-1 AAC) had scored in every quarter this season until being shut out in the second quarter of Saturday's 38-24 loss to Houston. ... Temple (4-0, 1-0) appears to have an excellent shot at entering its Halloween contest against Notre Dame 7-0. Preceding the date with the Irish are home games against Tulane (2-2, 1-0) and UCF, and a trip to ECU (3-2, 1-1).

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Know the Foe: Syracuse

Syracuse receiver Ben Lewis hauls in a touchdown pass during the Orange's 34-24 loss to LSU on Sept. 26.

AP photo

Syracuse receiver Ben Lewis hauls in a touchdown pass during the Orange's 34-24 loss to LSU on Sept. 26.

A look at Syracuse, which comes Friday to Raymond James Stadium

Nickname: Orange

Record: 3-1
Wins: 47-0 vs. Rhode Island, 30-17 vs. Wake Forest, 30-27 (OT) vs. Central Michigan
Losses: 24-34 vs. LSU

Coach: Scott Shafer (third season, 13-16)

The breakdown: The Orange have been a difficult team to track on film, primarily because they already have used three starting quarterbacks. Freshman Eric Dungey (534 total yards), who missed the LSU game after taking a shot to the helmet against Central Michigan, is expected to start Saturday. He'll operate an offense that could intersperse a strong dose of triple-option. While not terribly prolific -- Syracuse's 350.8 yards a game rank 111th nationally -- the Orange are efficient. They've scored on 12 of 13 red-zone opportunities and haven't lost a fumble. Defensively, Shafer will dial up a smorgasbord of blitzes and fluctuate from a 4-3 (base) to a 3-4 (passing situations). Junior ends Ron Thompson and Luke Arciniega already have four sacks each.

Odds and ends: USF leads the all-time series, 6-2, but the teams' last meeting probably should count for at least two for the Orange. Down 20 at halftime, Syracuse got a 1-yard TD pass from Ryan Nassib to Alec Lemon with three seconds to play for a 37-36 triumph on Oct. 27, 2012. ... Syracuse already has used 15 true freshmen, tied for fourth-most nationally. ... The Orange have committed 17 penalties, third-fewest in the country. ... Syracuse's roster features former Armwood PK Sterling Hofrichter and former Largo CB Cordell Hudson.

Taggart's take: "They blitz and they get you off-schedule on offense and play hard and run to the ball. You’ve got to be sound in your protection and in your run scheme and making sure you get a hat on a hat with some of the blitzes that they do."

Tom Allen's take: "The thing about them is, they're not like Navy where they run the option all the time. Right now they're about 20 percent, and you may see more of they get more in with their quarterback (Dungey)."

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Branches from Harbaugh tree intertwine Saturday

Eight autumns after they periodically matched wits as fellow Jim Harbaugh lieutenants at Stanford, USF's Willie Taggart and Syracuse's Scott Shafer meet again Saturday.

And Taggart, the Cardinal running backs coach in 2007, has a pretty good idea of what's coming from Harbaugh's former defensive coordinator.

“I expect them to blitz. I expect them to blitz and I expect them to blitz and I expect them to blitz some more," Taggart said Tuesday.

Such is the modus operandi of Shafer and Orange defensive coordinator Chuck Bullough, expected to harass Bulls sophomore QB Quinton Flowers from every direction. Led by junior ends Ron Thompson and Luke Arciniega (four sacks each), Syracuse ranks 24th nationally with 2.75 sacks a game.

"You’ve got to be sound in your protection and in your run scheme, and making sure you get a hat on a hat with some of the blitzes that they do," Taggart said.

PROMOTION FOR 'PICK-SIX': Freshman CB Ronnie Hoggins, who totaled five tackles and a pass breakup in his first career start Friday against Memphis, remains No. 1 on the depth chart this week. His backup, veteran Johnny Ward, missed one game with a hip pointer but played against the Tigers.

"There's not a day that he's been here that he didn't make a play," Taggart said. "We call him 'Pick-Six,' because he did it in high school and came here and started doing it in practice, and he almost had one the other day (in the second half against Memphis), which would've been big. But he's always around the ball."

'CUSE QB RETURNS: Shafer said on his weekly video Monday that freshman Eric Dungey, the second of three starting quarterbacks already used by the Orange this season, is "ready to go" after taking a shot to the head in a Sept. 19 victory against Central Michigan. In three games (two starts), Dungey, atop this week's depth chart, is 21-for-36 for 428 yards, five TDs and no interceptions.

ODDS AND ENDS: Neither USF nor Syracuse have lost a fumble this season. ... Upon reviewing the Memphis tape, Taggart said the defensive line particularly was "outstanding. I thought we put a lot of pressure on Paxton Lynch and that affected him a little bit." ... The Bulls will try to snap a five-game homecoming losing streak Saturday. In the 2012 homecoming encounter with Syracuse, the Orange scored on a 1-yard TD pass with three seconds remaining to rally for a 37-36 victory. ... Dave Ryan (play-by-play), Corey Chavous (analysis) and Lauren Gardner (sideline) will call Saturday's game for CBS Sports Network. ... Sophomore TB Marlon Mack is 66 rushing yards shy of 1,500 for his career. ... After spending the 2014 season primarily as a nickel back, sophomore Devin Abraham (13 tackles, one INT) said he feels more comfortable at his natural free safety spot. "Moving back at safety is more of a home feeling," he said.

AUDIBLE: “I don’t know where we all get that we’re just going to sling the ball, just throw it all around. We never said we were going to be that kind of football team. We’re playing to the strength of our football team, and that’s our running backs, and we’re going to run the football. We’ve said that from Day 1 that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to run it and we’re going to throw it off the run." -- Taggart

AUDIBLE II: "The way we look at it, we think we’ll be playing that team again (in the American Athletic Conference championship game). We’re going to correct some things and see to it that that happens.” -- Taggart, referring to Memphis

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Taggart: Offense "not far" from turning corner

A month into the season, the sleek, power-based offense Willie Taggart promoted as "fast" and "exciting" hasn't lived up to the latter adjective.

But entering Saturday's homecoming game against Syracuse, the Bulls coach is neither conceding -- nor overhauling -- anything.

"Obviously we haven't provided that (fun and excitement) if you watch what we're doing," Taggart said on Monday's American Athletic Conference coaches teleconference. "But I don't think we're far from doing it."

Taggart's conservative approach in the second half of Friday's 24-17 loss at Memphis -- in which USF found the red zone only once -- elicited periodic choruses of boos from the Raymond James Stadium crowd of 14,305. Receivers and tight ends were targeted downfield only six times in the first three quarters, and even Taggart assumed blame for not calling more plays to loosen up Memphis' defense after halftime.

But the Bulls will remain a run-first team, he said Monday. …

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Full disclosure: My latest AP ballot

As long as the college football world order remains on spin cycle each week, you'll find the same schizophrenia on most ballots, incluing mine.

For the third time in four weeks, I have a new No. 1, though none of those three have lost.

At this point of this dizzying autumn, I suppose teams ought to be rewarded for staying unbeaten, and normally I hate penalizing teams for winning. But I can't in good conscience keep Michigan State atop the ballot after it squeaked by 1-4 Purdue at home (and lost another offensive tackle in the process). Similarly, Ohio State's certainly not leapfrogging the Spartans after escaping that daunting college football snakepit known as Bloomington, Ind.

So here's your chance, TCU.

Elsewhere, Florida played like a top-10 squad Saturday night, and is being rewarded as such on my ballot. FSU's out of my top 10 for the same reason Ohio State is now No. 3: The 'Noles simply haven't looked sharp all year.

Exiting the ballot are Wisconsin and Mississippi State. Climbing aboard are Iowa and Memphis. I didn't upgrade the Tigers for winning Friday in such a hostile environment (actual attendance: 14,305), but because their victory against Cincinnati looks a bit more impressive today.

1. TCU
2. Michigan State
3. Ohio State
4. Baylor
5. Alabama
6. LSU
7. Clemson
8. Utah
9. Florida
10. Oklahoma
11. FSU
12. Texas A&M
13. Northwestern
14. Stanford
15. Notre Dame
16. UCLA
17. Ole Miss
18. USC
19. Oklahoma State
20. Michigan
21. California
22. Georgia
23. Iowa
24. Memphis
25. Temple

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Bulls have witnessed Lynch's evolution

Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch enters Friday's game at USF as a darkhorse Heisman candidate.

AP Photo

Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch enters Friday's game at USF as a darkhorse Heisman candidate.

He came into Raymond James Stadium two Novembers ago as a raw and mostly unproven redshirt freshman, a collegiate novice only slightly greener than most of those surrounding him.

Friday night, Memphis junior QB Paxton Lynch returns as a darkhorse Heisman Trophy candidate.

"I heard (Cincinnati) Coach (Tommy) Tuberville say last week he's one of the best quarterbacks in the country that he's seen," Bulls coach Willie Taggart said earlier this week. "And I agree."

A 6-foot-7 right-hander from Deltona, Lynch's stock -- and that of his team -- has reached virtually an unprecedented stratosphere. He has established a career-high for passing yardage in each of his last three games, and enters Friday's contest against USF ranked fifth nationally in pass efficiency (83-for-113, 1,230 yards, eight TDs).

His next interception will be his first of 2015.

"Everything he does, it's like he's already seen it, he already ran the play in his head, and there's no...holding the ball," Taggart said. "It's coming out now. And if he doesn't have it, he's athletic enough to run and get the first down or touchdown for you. ... I'm sure he could just go out and call the plays; he knows it that well."

That type of instinctiveness and seasoning was borne of trial and tribulation, as indicated in this story. Lynch, who has started every game for Memphis since the beginning of the 2013 season, has grown with most of the players around him.

Four of his five starting offensive linemen are seniors; as are two starting receivers and the starting tight end. Their early calamities (i.e. a 17-15 loss to Middle Tennessee in 2013) have been supplanted by continuity and clairvoyance.

"Were there times when I thought about giving him a little break his freshman year? Yeah sure, there were," said Memphis coach Justin Fuente, whose team went 3-9 in '13. "But we really felt like, between the guys around him playing better and him continuing to improve, that we were getting a lot out of it."

The perseverance was validated last fall. Lynch established a Memphis record for total yardage (3,352) and completed better than 70 percent of his passes in six games, highlighted by a then-career-best 78.3 percent (18-for-23, 232 yards) in a 31-20 win against USF.

The five sacks he has taken this season are only one fewer that the amount he sustained in that loss to Middle Tennessee two Septembers ago.

"I think all those things he didn't have his first see it now," Taggart said.

"He can process everything; he's great at faking. You take that for granted, but he's great at selling the fake, and they're a huge play-action team. Throwing the ball on time, he can make all the throws, make the deep-ball throws. And then running with his feet -- when he doesn't have it, he goes. He doesn't hold the ball long at all. He gets rid of it or he's gone."

Friday marks Lynch's second consecutive non-Saturday game, which means another chance to showcase himself before a national TV audience. The Bulls' objective: pressure Lynch, confuse him into tentativeness, create takeaways. If all else fails, hope his pregame meal doesn't agree with him.

Otherwise, the Heisman whispers become more audible.

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'Eye discipline' all the buzz in Bulls camp

By the time USF kicks off Friday night against Memphis, "eye discipline" likely will have evolved from catchphrase to cliche within the Bulls circle.

The four-syllable term has reverberated across the Morsani Practice Complex this week as the Bulls defense prepares for a Memphis attack that specializes in confusion. The Tigers, eighth nationally in total offense (570.3 ypg), likely will show assorted shifts and formations Bulls defensive coordinator Tom Allen collectively refers to as "eye candy."

"They're obviously the best offense we've played so far," Allen said.

"We've talked to our guys from Day One about eye discipline, and you can't say that enough. ... That's the key, and tackling extremely well. They get you in space, they isolate you, and then their athletes make you miss."

CAN HE GO 3-0? The first touchdown Memphis scores Friday will be its first against an Allen-coached unit in the last five seasons.

As assistant head coach at Arkansas State in 2011, the Red Wolves trounced Memphis 47-3. Last season, as Ole Miss linebackers coach, Allen watched the Rebels hold the Tigers to a season-low 104 yards in a 24-3 Rebels triumph.

But the Tigers are 12-1 since that loss in Oxford last September. "They've always had some good athletes, but not like this," Allen said.

"And there's so much depth to 'em too. ... They've got some bigger (running backs) and some smaller ones, but they're all very effective. And all the receivers, there's not a guy you say, 'Hey, we've got to take this one guy away,' because somebody else will step up and has the ability to beat you."

ODDS AND ENDS: USF is 2-0 in American Athletic Conference openers under Taggart. ... Allen said CB Johnny Ward, who had been nursing a hip pointer, will play Friday. "This is the first time we've been at full strength on defense," Allen said. ... Entering October, the Bulls still have neither lost a fumble nor recovered one this season. "We have a standard we try to uphold and that's at least three takeaways every day at practice, and we always strive for more than that," senior DE Eric Lee said. "So takeaways is obviously a point, a factor, that we need to make sure that we press." ... Despite averaging 53.8 points so far, the Tigers offense hasn't exactly sprinted out of the gate. In its four opening possessions this season, it has punted once and fumbled twice.

AUDIBLE: "I thought this was one of the most complete practices we've had. Not letting external things affect us as far as the weather...we didn't let that affect us one bit. We came out here and practiced hard from the very first whistle and we finished strong." -- Bulls senior C Brynjar Gudmundsson, whose team worked out in steady rain Sunday and Tuesday

AUDIBLE II: "Going back there, it's exciting because my high school coaches had a lot to do with me being able to play college ball. So it's kind of a token back to them, to show them my hard work." -- Memphis DE (and Gaither High alumnus) Ernest Suttles, speaking to the Memphis Commercial Appeal

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Know the Foe: Memphis

Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch has an American Athletic Conference-best 188.2 pass-efficiency rating.


Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch has an American Athletic Conference-best 188.2 pass-efficiency rating.

A look at Memphis, which comes Friday to Raymond James Stadium

Nickname: Tigers

Record: 4-0 (Defeated Missouri State, 63-7; Kansas, 55-23; Bowling Green, 44-41; Cincinnati, 53-46)

Coach: Justin Fuente (fourth season, 21-20)

The breakdown: Memphis, 5-31 in the three years prior to Fuente's arrival, has won 11 in a row dating to last season. To this point, only Baylor (64.0 ppg) and Ole Miss (54.8) are scoring more than the Tigers (53.8), whose starting offense features seven seniors and two juniors. Sixteen of Memphis' 23 big plays (20 or more yards) have come in the passing game, where 6-foot-7 redshirt junior Paxton Lynch (83-for-113, 1,230 yards, eight TDs, no INTs) is emerging as a fringe Heisman candidate. Nine Tigers have at least five receptions, compared to only four for USF. Defensively, Memphis lost eight starters and defensive coordinator Barry Odom from last season's team, and it shows. The Tigers rank 103rd nationally in total defense (453.8 ypg) after surrendering 752 against Cincinnati, but have come up with a clutch play in the waning moments
(pass breakup, interception) in each of their last two games.

Odds and ends: Memphis ranks 21st nationally in third-down efficiency (48.1 percent); USF is 124th (27.9). ... Three former Hillsborough County prep standouts -- RB Robert Davis (Carrollwood Day), RB Darius Lee (Brandon) and DE Ernest Suttles (Gaither) -- play for Memphis. Suttles is listed as a starter this week. ... P Spencer Smith is averaging an AAC-best 49.9 yards per attempt, nearly 4 more than USF's Mattias Ciabatti. ... Memphis has won nine of its last 10 games played in NFL stadiums.

Taggart's take: "Paxton Lynch, he went through some (growing pains) as a freshman, but each and every year, you watch the kid get better, and now he's just flawless. Everything he does, it's like he's already seen it, he already ran the play in his head, and there's no...holding the ball. It's coming out now. And if he doesn't have it, he's athletic enough to run and get the first down or touchdown for you. ... I'm sure he could just go out and call the plays; he knows it that well."

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Godwin: USF defense 'built for games like this'

While watching Memphis amass 570 yards on 73 plays in Thursday night's 53-46 victory against Cincinnati, Bulls junior SS Nate Godwin never grimaced.

To the contrary, he grinned.

"I smiled," the Freedom High alumnus said, "because we're built for games like this."

USF's 4-2-5 alignment, installed by new coordinator Tom Allen specifically to neutralize spread-style offenses, gets arguably its most stringent test to date Friday against the Tigers. The Bulls have yet to face a wholesale spread system, but have been victimized by missed tackles, miscommunication and a lack of discipline to this point.

So why does Godwin, whose unit ranks 45th nationally (344.7 ypg) feel like the Bulls match up favorably?

"We run a 4-2-5, we've got five (defensive backs) and they love to pass the ball," he said. "We've got guys that can run, so I feel like we can keep up with the routes that they have. A lot of our coverages mesh to the routes that they're running so, I think it fits us pretty well."

Coach Willie Taggart concurred, saying he feels the Bulls are built to face any offense "as long as we execute it the way that we're capable of."

"But again, it's so important that we have eye discipline, we just don't fall for anything. It's so important that we don't give up explosive plays. We've got to do a great job of tackling and getting guys to the ball because they live off explosive plays."

MORE MACK: Taggart said Tuesday he assumes the blame for 2014 American Athletic Conference rushing leader Marlon Mack getting only 12 carries at Maryland. In three games, Mack has 53 carries -- five fewer than he had this time last season.

"No matter how that (Maryland) game goes, he's got to get more than 12 touches, he just has to," Taggart said. "And that's on me to make sure that he gets more than 12 touches, and he will."

TAKING A CUE FROM CINCY? Bulls QB Quinton Flowers, who by all accounts has shined in the half-dozen or so practices since the Maryland game, suggested his team has the chance to flourish with the short passing game against Memphis. …

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AAC Notebook: Moore's effort leaves coaches in awe

Cincinnati freshman Hayden Moore set a school and AAC single-game record with 557 passing yards in Thursday's 53-46 loss at Memphis.

AP Photo

Cincinnati freshman Hayden Moore set a school and AAC single-game record with 557 passing yards in Thursday's 53-46 loss at Memphis.

One must rewind to the Spandex era, when Bengals FB Ickey Woods gyrated his way into his city's consciousness, to find a Cincinnati football player whose debut has been more auspicious than Hayden Moore's.

Four days after the Bearcats freshman set a UC (and American Athletic Conference) single-game passing record (557 yards) in a three-quarter relief effort in Thursday's 53-46 loss at Memphis, Coach Tommy Tuberville still was gushing.

"I don't think I've ever seen a performance like that from a kid that's never played -- at any level of any football team," Tuberville said on Monday's AAC weekly coaches teleconference.

"He broke our record, and we've had some quarterbacks here that can really throw the football, and he did it in three quarters. ... He looked poised; he didn't look like a redshirt freshman that had only played like, 15 or 20 plays in college football. He threw the ball accurately."

Moore, who attempted 28 collegiate passes (two of them interceptions) entering Thursday's game, replaced Gunner Kiel late in the first period after Kiel took a frightening upper-body shot and was taken from the Liberty Bowl via stretcher.

He completed three of his first four passes, including a 68-yard TD to Jefferson High alumnus Chris Moore. It was the first of four consecutive scoring drives directed by the Clay, Ala., native.

"Obviously I have a tremendous amount of respect for what the kid accomplished and how they played offensively," Tigers coach Justin Fuente said Monday. "He hung in there and made some really great throws. ... They are very talented on the outisde but he put some balls on the money."

Kiel, who suffered a head injury the week before against Miami (Ohio), seems doubtful for the Bearcats' home game Saturday against the University of Miami. Tuberville said Kiel hasn't been cleared by the doctors yet.

OWNING THE ACC: East Carolina's rain-soaked 35-28 victory Saturday against Virginia Tech not only was the Pirates' second in a row against the Hokies, but their fifth consecutive triumph against ACC competition.

Trailing 14-0 eight minutes into the game, the Pirates rallied behind the quarterback tandem of Blake Kemp and James Summers, neither of whom entered the season as the projected heir to ECU career passing leader Shane Carden. Kemp directed consecutive TD drives to tie the score before giving way to Summers, a more gifted runner who finished with 169 rushing yards.

"We had two tough losses on the road (at Florida and at Navy) and we were down 14-0 early, and they didn’t flinch,” Pirates coach Ruffin McNeill said after the game. “They handled adversity, just like life, and they bounced back."

ODDS AND ENDS: Connecticut's Oct. 10 game at UCF, which Huskies coach Bob Diaco shamelessly hyped as the "Civil Conflict" all summer, will be televised by ESPNU. Kickoff is at 3:45. ... With three rushing touchdowns in Saturday's 28-18 win at UConn, Navy QB Keenan Reynolds moved into second place on the NCAA's career chart (73). Wisconsin's Montee Ball (77) owns the mark for now. ...  UCF (0-4) has led at halftime in three of its four losses. ... Temple (3-0) and Memphis (4-0) are the only Division I-A teams with two road wins at this point.

AUDIBLE: "I'm part of the ranking group and I voted them, I see them as a top 25 team if not higher than that. I think at the end of the year when the dust settles, they'll be up there a ways." -- Diaco on Navy (His vote was the only one the Midshipmen got in the latest coaches poll.) …

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Bulls bent on limiting Tigers' big plays

The American Athletic Conference's highest-scoring offense (53.8 ppg) comes to Raymond James Stadium on Friday, and if Bulls coach Willie Taggart has his way, it will have to grind for every point.

Unbeaten Memphis, third nationally in scoring and eighth in total offense (570.3 ypg), had six plays of 21 or more yards in Thursday's 53-46 home victory against Cincinnati. The Tigers have scored 40 or more points in six consecutive contests, the longest active streak in Division I-A.

On Friday, they face a beleaguered Bulls unit that has surrendered six plays of 25 or more yards in its last two contests alone.

Friday night's key: "Doing a good job of making them go the distance and keeping the ball in front of you and making good tackles," Taggart said.

"They live off big plays and missed tackles, so I think it's very important that we do a good job of trying to limit their explosive plays, and try to make them kick field goals instead of touchdowns in the red zone."

FULL FORCE: Friday's game will be the first this year in which USF will have its full complement of linebackers for an entire game.

Veteran 'stingers' (weakside 'backers) Tashon Whitehurst and Nigel Harris played at Maryland after serving two-game suspensions, but MLB Auggie Sanchez missed the first half as a result of his targeting-related ejection at FSU. Whitehurst and Harris teamed for seven tackles, with Harris botching a coverage on a TD pass to Maryland TE Avery Edwards. …

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Full disclosure: My AP football ballot

A little Sunday confession here: As a result of the volatility we've seen at the season's outset, I've already broken nearly every ballot rule I established for myself upon being chosen for this privilege.

In the span of four weekends, I've dropped teams for being idle, dropped others following a victory, and even promoted some following a lackluster win. When the collegiate world order is turned on its head each weekend (see Utah 62, Oregon 20), the same tends to happen to one's ballot.

At least I don't have a team ranked ahead of someone to whom it already has lost (at least I don't think I do).

At any rate, Oregon, Arizona, Georgia Tech, BYU and Missouri drop off this week's ballot. Oklahoma State, Mississippi State, Cal, Florida and Michigan supplant them. Yes, I have the Gators at No. 23. That win at Kentucky looks a tad more impressive today. Same for that victory two weeks ago against East Carolina.

You'll also notice I move Ole Miss up three spots (from No. 10 to 7) despite an ugly home win against Vanderbilt. Consider that my version of a make-up call; I ranked the Rebels too low last week following their win against Alabama.

1. Michigan State
3. Ohio State
4. Baylor
5. TCU
6. LSU
7. Ole Miss
8. Notre Dame
9. Utah
10. FSU
11. Clemson
12. Alabama
13. Georgia
14. Oklahoma
15. Texas A&M
16. Northwestern
17. Stanford
18. USC
19. Mississippi St.
20. Oklahoma St.
21. California
22. Wisconsin
23. Florida
24. Michigan
25. Temple

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Mayhem in Memphis: What does it mean for USF?

Bulls fans who observed Thursday night's arena-league-style throwdown between Cincinnati and Memphis likely couldn't help but ponder the implications of the Tigers' 53-46 victory on their own maligned team.

Memphis, 4-0 for the first time since 1961, comes to Raymond James Stadium a week from tonight. Will the Paxton Lynch we all watched Thursday show up as well? Will the Tigers defense show up at all? Will Memphis arrive with momentum or a hangover?

Let's consider some of these questions:

* Lynch is on fire, among the hottest quarterbacks in the country. With 412 passing yards against the Bearcats, he set a career-high for the third consecutive week. More than once Thursday, we could've sworn the ESPN broadcast tandem of Joe Tessitore and Jesse "The Bachelor" Palmer mentioned "Lynch" and "Heisman" in the same sentence.

Bottom line: Lynch's star is on the rise. For that matter, so is Tigers coach Justin Fuente's. Speaking of that...

*...we just can't see either allowing their team to suffer a letdown. Last season, the Tigers drubbed Cincinnati 41-14, a week after a 24-3 loss to Ole Miss. In mid-November, eight days after a critical three-point win at Temple, Memphis trounced Tulane 38-7.

"It was a great reward to have the stage, and obviously to find a way to win is even better. But the bottom line is we're 1-0 in the conference. And next Friday we've got to go to South Florida," Fuente said afterward, per the Memphis Commercial Appeal. "Any more context than that, to me, is a little bit lost."

If, for some reason, Fuente must conjure incentives for his team, try this one: If the Tigers defeat USF, they officially will have gone more than a year without a loss. Their next game after USF is Oct. 17 against Ole Miss; they last lost Oct. 11, 2014, to Houston.

* The 752 yards Memphis allowed Thursday (most in program history) was only a mild aberration. This unit, which lost eight starters from last season's team, is in transition. Granted, the Tigers limited Cincy to only two touchdowns in seven red-zone possessions, but that statistic is offset by the fact they allowed freshman QB Hayden Moore to throw for 557 yards in essentially three quarters (after starter Gunner Kiel was knocked out of the game).

The Tigers' defensive front appears ineffective, meaning they may need some help in run support against USF's read-option attack. That should open things up downfield for Quinton Flowers and Co. If the Bulls can't generate some offensive consistency against this group, well, one can presume the fallout.

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Simpson's goal lifts Bulls past UConn

As she observed her team's sluggishness at the outset of its most anticipated regular season match to date, USF coach Denise Schilte-Brown inwardly longed for a chance to return to the locker room and start all over.

Mother Nature obliged.

Apparently reinvigorated after a 43-minute lightning delay, the 24th-ranked Bulls (8-1-1) got a goal from Newsome High alumnus Jackie Simpson in the 79th minute to clinch a 1-0 triumph Thursday evening against No. 20 Connecticut (8-2) at Corbett Stadium.

The win partially avenged the Huskies' victory -- via penalty kicks -- on the same pitch last November in the American Athletic Conference tournament final.

"After last year, how they kind of took away what was supposed to be ours, we all came out here and started sloppy," said sophomore goalkeeper Kat Elliott, who finished with a career-best eight saves. "But toward the end we pulled it together and we got the win that we should've had last year."

Elliott notched four saves in the first 20 minutes as UConn built an early 10-9 shots advantage before play was halted with 15:03 to play in the first half.

"I think we  needed it. The reset was important, for whatever reason," Schilte-Brown said.

"I thought we came out looking to perform, show our skills, but not our effort. And then we regrouped in the locker room. And I love this team. They knew it; I didn't need to come in there and say a word. I did say a word, but I didn't need to. They were ready to come out and be a different team."

Simpson's game-winner -- her second goal of the season -- was set up when senior defender Alexis Rossi sent in a long ball that Grace Adams bobbled and flicked with her heel toward Simpson. Observing the goalkeeper approaching and the back open, Simpson -- naturally right-footed -- delivered a left-footed blast from just inside the penalty area.

"It feels really good," Simpson said. "We had that (loss last November) in the back of our minds the whole time and we were just playing for that, playing for the win. It was our first conference game and everyone was super excited. UConn's great competition, a great team and we get excited to play them every time."

The Bulls finished with a 17-15 shot advantage, with five players taking at least two.

"I actually think it's the best UConn team we've played in four years," Schilte-Brown said. "I just think that we're riding a really high wave right now."

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