We talked with Collin Sherwin of our SB Nation sister site The Daily Stampede to get more insight on USF in advance of tomorrow’s War on I-4.
1. How much do we collectively hate Temple this year? Seriously.
Well, you guys blew a lead late to them, which gave us real joy. I believe that now qualifies as Schadenfreude since if you had won that game all we'd need is a win on Saturday to go to the AAC Championship.
Temple is doubly-annoying to us since even though we destroyed them at Ray Jay last year, they had the far easier crossover division schedule and thus the much easier path to the title game. We've needed them to lose a game now five times to put in the drivers seat late in the season, and they haven't done so yet.
I was at our game in Philly this year, and they still don't have any fans. And they have absolutely danced through the raindrops of luck since Bortles hit J.J. Worton. UCF got all the breaks and luck in 2013 and '14, and Temple in '15 and '16. Someday it'll be USF's turn I hope.
2. I still remember the brilliant haiku at Voodoo Five about Willie Taggart’s bus being on fire and haunted. But it turns out that Taggart’s records have trended up at USF (2-10, 4-8, 8-5, 9-2 and pending). Is he still the head coach at USF next year? Beyond that?
It'll depend on forces outside of USF's control. If a big P5 job wants him, with USF's budgetary restrictions it'll be basically impossible to get him to stay. He was even thought of as a possible replacement for Jimbo at FSU, but for now it appears he's staying in Tallahassee.
USF just doesn't have the money to compete with even marginal P5 jobs. And until Mike Aresco renegotiates those TV rights and gets us all a bit more cash, this is going to be the situation.
3. Last week’s game against SMU seemed tighter than many would have expected for the Bulls. What do you attribute that to?
The Bulls’ inability to get a stop consistently (which has been the problem all season), and the offense having some weird things happen in the fourth quarter. The defense did get that big stop on fourth and one to win the game, but overall that's been a struggle all season. Teams have been running the ball pretty easily on USF all season.
And I don't think you can begrudge the nation's second-best offense (by S&P) a couple of small errors. They've been just incredible this season, but sometimes unusual stuff just pops up at the wrong time. Certainly not worried about it long-term.
4. From the USF perspective, what do you see as the key match-ups on Saturday?
Can the USF defense force McKenzie Milton into mistakes, and can USF run the ball so effectively on UCF they won't need to worry about throwing into that talented secondary. I think USF can put up some big numbers, but a lot of it will be out of their zone read-style packages, with some Rodney Adams jet sweep action in there too.
5. Obviously, the strength of this USF team is the offense. The defense, uh, not so much. What might the Knights be able to exploit when they have the ball?
Just run it. Run it left and run it right and run it up the middle. Defensive coordinator Tom Allen brought this 4-2-5 system to Tampa, but he left for Indiana this year where they've also had success with it. Raymond Woodie has been the guy catching most of the flack from the fan base for the oft-poor performances from the previously-titled #Bullshark defense. No matter what happens to Taggart, I think we'll all be stunned if he's the DC next season.
The Bulls are 104th in S&P defensively, 110th on 1st downs, 119th in Havoc Rate... they've got serious problems on that side of the ball. And they haven't put together a good half since the first against Navy (where they were really good against one of the best rushing teams in America, so go figure). You can run the ball on USF, and you should do so a lot and often.
6. Unfortunately, I have little reason to believe my Knights and their dysfunctional offense will win the War on I-4 this year. Knowing your team as you do, what do you think has to happen for UCF to upset USF?
Control the clock, keep USF's Gulf Coast Offense off the field, and force Quinton Flowers to try and beat you from the pocket. He's certainly capable of it, but that's your best chance. You'll also need to spy him, as if you don't he'll just pull it down and run for every first down available.
The USF offense is pure poetry and a joy to behold. The defense is pretty terrible however. Run the ball early and often.