Now, football fits Griffin just right
Instead of a cookie-cutter "this is at stake" type preview story on a game day, my editors prefer a relevant player feature, which I've come to prefer in the last few years. So today, we take a closer look at junior center Jake Griffin, whose college career has followed his four years at Armwood, with a quiet freshman year, injured sophomore year, then emergence as a starter and leader as a junior. All this from a guy who saw himself as a first baseman until Armwood's coaches steered him toward football as a 6-foot-2, 240-pound freshman.
We still try to address the "here's how the game will be won and lost" aspect of previewing today's USF-Cincinnati game, offering you our traditional scouting report, plus our three key matchups: why both teams need turnovers to win, why Cincy counts on a strong start and how these are the Big East's two worst teams for field-goal accuracy. I wrote something on USF celebrating its 1997 team at halftime, but I don't think it made it online.
I forgot to mention this the other day, but USF coach Jim Leavitt said Thursday that while receiver Amarri Jackson won't play against Cincinnati, his knee injury doesn't involve any damage so severe as to require any surgery. That's encouraging for his prospects of returning this season -- that could be in the final three regular-season games, and remember that a late December bowl game is still seven weeks off. Neither Jackson nor Taurus Johnson have been at practice this week -- I saw Johnson at USF's athletic facility on Friday, and while the boot is off his injured right ankle, he's still walking gingerly and with a limp. Again, that means USF needs big games from freshmen Carlton Mitchell and Dontavia Bogan.
Thoughts on the game? Score predictions? Crowd predictions? I think a lot of this everybody-off-the-bandwagon talk is overblown: Today's game will have at least 52,000 tickets distributed, which is 6,000 more than any game at Raymond James Stadium before this season. Doesn't seem fair to only judge the crowd against the West Virginia and Central Florida sellouts; I'll be curious to see what the actual turnstile (fannies-in-seats) count is today, but I imagine it'll be about 45,000.
-- One more link: The Orlando Sentinel's Mike Bianchi wasn't at Saturday's USF-UConn game, but he has been the most outspoken critic of Jim Leavitt's actions after the game. This excerpt from his column that ran in Saturday's Sentinel:
Two words for USF administrators who have allowed Leavitt's ego to swell to a point where he has become perhaps the biggest jerk in college football: pathetic and disgraceful. Any chance USF quarterback Matt Grothe might have had to garner some Heisman attention has been ruined by Leavitt's ham-handed PR. USF should have been one of the feel-good stories of the year in college football, but once again Leavitt has managed to turn the Bulls into one of the most unlikable teams in the country.