USF-WKU: What score constitutes a success?
Another question headline? Yes, to preface this, as Skip Holtz will assure you, USF's only concern Saturday against Western Kentucky is simply winning, even if that might seem like a foregone conclusion as the Hilltoppers come in with a 23-game losing streak.
But for the sake of conversation, what score would constitute a successful showing for the Bulls on Saturday night? The line in today's paper has USF as a 27-point favorite, and WKU has already lost on the road to BCS opponents by 39 (Nebraska) and 35 (Kentucky) before finishing a bit closer in a 38-21 home loss to Indiana this past week. (In truth, it was 31-7 entering the fourth.)
Don't be surprised if WKU manages to score first -- they did so against Kentucky and Indiana, as well as against USF last season, when the Bulls missed an early field goal and fumbled a punt return, allowing a WKU lead to continue until the final minute of the first quarter. Last year's game goes down as a 35-13 victory for the Bulls, but it was still 14-6 late in the third quarter, with USF getting some distance only after a 65-yard pass from Matt Grothe to Carlton Mitchell.
Looking at WKU's history, the Hilltoppers have played 15 games against BCS conference opponents since 2002 (one per season until 2008, with nine in the past three seasons), and none of those teams have been able to shut them out. Four times they've managed just a field goal, so putting a zero up on the scoreboard is certainly something the defense could shoot for. (Yes, they aim for that every week, etc.)
WKU won't be intimidated after the month they've had -- the Toppers seniors have been to Tennessee, Alabama, Virginia Tech and Florida, so 40,000 at Raymond James Stadium won't be as hostile as some of the places they've been.
As we mentioned in Thursday's notes, WKU hadn't scored more than 14 points in any of those BCS games until two weeks ago, when they scored 28 against Kentucky, then followed that with 21 against Indiana. So there's more of a scoring threat than has been there in the past -- not only RB Bobby Rainey, who we've written about this week, but in speedy Willie McNeal, who had a 90-yard touchdown on a kickoff return against Kentucky.
"We want to impress USF," coach Willie Taggart said Wednesday night, and he'll have a young squad with a lot of Florida kids, even Tampa-area kids for a homecoming of sorts.
The average score in those 15 BCS games for WKU has been 43-11, though over the past two seasons, that average has shown even more scoring, up at 50-16. Coming off a bye week and after a disappointing five-turnover game at Florida, this game and next week's at home against Florida Atlantic will be the springboard to USF's Big East games, so what will it take Saturday to show you the Bulls are moving in the right direction?