Monday analysis: Same problems for USF
One of the trickier things in our college coverage is writing a follow-up story for Monday's paper: it has to take Saturday's game and either provide analysis or spin it forward, and with little Sunday access at USF (Jim Leavitt did take a call for a brief interview Sunday night), that usually means taking a closer look at the game and figuring out what went wrong/right.
So this week's Monday follow focuses on how so many of the problems that cost USF against Connecticut were the same problems that doomed the Bulls against Rutgers. Poor tackling on defense, an inability to force turnovers the way USF did in its 6-0 start, and on offense, a consistent lack of playmaking in pressure situations, like third downs or in the red zone. Add that up, and it's not hard to see how USF lost to Connecticut. The question is how quickly the Bulls can collect themselves and respond.
Remember how last week our game preview said that eight teams ranked in the top 10 had lost two games in a row this season? If there's a consolation to USF joining that group, it's that after losing two straight, those eight teams went 7-1 in the next game, the only loss being Cal's loss to undefeated Arizona State on Saturday night. So there's precedent for this being the point where a ranked team stops tumbling and catches itself. USF being at home helps with that, though Cincinnati is still a dangerous team, with talent on both sides of the ball.
If there's one team (besides Connecticut) that can dictate the final Big East standings, I think that team is Louisville. The Cardinals, among the bigger disappointments in college football this season, are 5-4, so they need one more win to be bowl-eligible. Their last three aren't easy though -- off this week, then a Thursday showdown Nov. 8 at West Virginia, then a big game at USF, then finishing at home against Rutgers. Crazy as it seems, winning out would put them in the thick of the Big East title hunt, with Connecticut still as the main problem. More likely, the Cardinals will be a November spoiler, getting one or two wins in those last three games to put themselves in a bowl and knock another league team down.