1. BJ Daniels is obviously the key to the Bulls' success this year and is making a play for Big East Offensive Player of the Year. What's been the difference in his game?
I think this quote from Coach Holtz sums up the difference between this year and last year.
"When B.J. comes off the field, I ask him all the time, ‘B.J. tell me what you saw.'" Holtz said. "He'll tell me he saw the safety rotated up, or the linebacker dropped so he looked off the receiver and went to his next read."
And last year?
"He'd look at me like, ‘What safety? Which one's the safety?'"
Sometimes all it takes is time and the same playbook.
2. Because it's so early in the year, I question if Pitt's players really know just how big this game is. As I wrote in the Notre Dame recap, the loser of this game is going to be 1 1/2 games back essentially, as the winner will own a tiebreaker. Is the talk down there about how big this game is or is Pitt looked at kind of as just another opponent?
Skip is taking this game very seriously. He even admitted so on Sunday that the coaching staff were already getting ready for the game last week and were already formulating a game plan for Thursday. We know how tough transition years are under a new regime, but this is an extremely talented squad who shut down the Bulls last year in Tampa. Most rational fans will know that this will be a tough game for USF on Thursday. I think people forget that Pitt was picked ahead of USF in the Big East Pre-Season Media Poll.
3. What's the ceiling for this Bulls team in your opinion? After playing Pitt on the road, the schedule is pretty manageable. Going undefeated in any conference is difficult, but in a weak one such as the Big East, is it possible with South Florida's remaining eight games?
12-0? There isn't a team on the schedule that USF would be a huge underdog against, and its a big plus that USF will not play a single cold weather game in conference this year (Rutgers on November 5th is the latest outdoor road game). The end of the year works out perfectly as the Bulls will take on West Virginia on a short week right after the Backyard Brawl. I'm also sure that WVU will a little more focused the Pitt game than usual this year because of some stupid thing called conference expansion and you guys leaving for the ACC in 1-3 years.
4. Both the USF offense and defense have been pretty dominant so far this season. What's your bet on who keeps it up the longest?
I think the offense will keep it up longer than the defense. USF racked up some serious yardage over the last two weeks, and this is the best I've ever seen an offense play since following the team. I did miss the early 2000 teams led by Marquel Blackwell that were pretty imposing (and you all saw for yourself in 2001), but the balance and quality across the board on offense has been amazing to watch.
We will have Sr. CB Quenton Washington back for the game after missing last week's game to a knee injury (nickelback JaQuez Jenkins also missed most of the game), but I don't know if one person can fix the mistakes the team made last week. I guess we will find out on Thursday.
5. With conference realignment happening, where do you think USF ends up if the Big East doesn't survive? The only other conference they appear to fit in (at least geographically), the SEC, probably has other options they'd look at first. Is this something that worries fans?
Unfortunately USF is between a rock and a hard place right now. The ACC and SEC aren't viable options at this point, with the ACC not needing a 3rd Florida team and the SEC being a non-starter. We don't know what the Big XII will do with expansion, so at this point all we can do is wait and see how it all plays out.
6. How do you think the game shapes out on Thursday?
I think this team is different compared to those squads in 2007 and 08 who couldn't get it done in conference play. The offense already has had experience against a 3-4 twice this year, and should be ready for any exotic blitzes the Panthers will throw at them. Defensively, the depleted Pitt offensive line and the erratic play of Tino Sunseri will lead to some big plays for the back seven. I think USF wins this one 27-14.