TAMPA — USF's third consecutive 5-0 start was acknowledged by the national polls Sunday, as the Bulls are ranked for the first time this season, No. 23 in the Associated Press Top 25 and at No. 24 in the coaches' poll.
"I'm just thinking about Cincinnati," said coach Jim Leavitt, whose team has this week off before a Big East showdown with the No. 8 Bearcats at Raymond James Stadium on Oct. 15.
The Bulls' 34-20 win Saturday at Syracuse wasn't as well played as the win Sept. 26 at Florida State, but Leavitt said he knew his players could not have the same intensity they displayed in Tallahassee.
"It's impossible. (Special-teams coach) John Hendrick told me that last night," Leavitt said Saturday. "I was feeling so bad about trying to make sure I get this team ready to play. John said, 'You know, it's impossible to have them as high emotionally as they were last week.' … He's right. You just have to hope that the talent and the fight will be enough to carry through.''
Talent, fight and seven takeaways did the trick against Syracuse, and USF is now third in the nation with 16 forced turnovers, one off the national lead.
HONORED: Senior S Nate Allen, who had two interceptions Saturday, was honored as the Walter Camp Football Foundation's national defensive player of the week.
Allen also had a team-high eight tackles in addition to two of USF's five interceptions of QB Greg Paulus, who had totaled four picks in his previous four games. Allen has won a national defensive honor before, having been chosen as the Nagurski defensive player of the week after USF's win at Auburn in 2007.
TOUCHBACKS: Leavitt said he was "disappointed" with the punt team. Punts from the Syracuse 33 and 39 resulted in touchbacks.
"I was looking for field position there, and we didn't get it," said Leavitt, noting that Delbert Alvarado's first punt went into the end zone, but the second one could have been downed inside the 5 had the coverage gotten there in time.
THIS AND THAT: Junior WR Carlton Mitchell has 377 receiving yards, putting him on pace to easily break Hugh Smith's school record of 661, set in 2002. No other USF receiver has half as many yards. … USF has the nation's No. 5 scoring defense, allowing 9.4 points per game, while Cincinnati has the No. 4 scoring offense, averaging 42 points.