Once again it's time for the Friday Five Keys as we get ready for the Big East opener against Syracuse. Here we go:
1. Make someone other than Syracuse's triplets beat you. The Orange have three clear offensive leaders -- quarterback Ryan Nassib, running back Delone Carter, and the delightfully named Van Chew at receiver. (If you're coming to the game from north of town, I think you can buy a Van Chew at the Flying J on I-75 and Highway 52.) Nassib has thrown nine touchdowns in four games, Carter is a 220-pound bowling ball who's run for over 100 yards a game and is averaging 5.7 yards a carry, and Chew has 19 catches for 343 yards. Granted Nassib can spread the ball around some, but make someone else make the big play if you can.
2. Get Sterling Griffin back in the offensive flow. When you're missing one receiver, you can usually overcome that and still run your offense. When you're missing two, it takes things out of your playbook. And when you're missing three, it's time to run the ball on every play (see also: Western Kentucky game). It's important to have Griffin back because it opens up a lot more options for Todd Fitch. I'm sure he would prefer not to run the ball 80% of the time, even if they're really good at it. This is as close to full strength as USF's offense has been all season, even if Jamar Bass doesn't play. So hopefully it's time to let it rip.
Oh, and the best part of opening up the passing offense? None of it's on film yet.
3. Continue winning on special teams. As we had hoped would happen, the Bulls' special teams have flourished so far this year. Hopefully the kicking game will stabilize with the switch back to Maikon Bonani, but the other aspects of the USF special teams have been terrific. Two blocked kicks for touchdowns, good punting by Justin "Gus the Kicking Mule" Brockhaus-Kann, some life from the return games, and excellent kick coverage. I just feel a close game coming on, and when that happens, the special teams often decides who wins and loses.
4. Mark Joyce, time to step up. The true freshman slides up to start at free safety with Jerrell Young ruled out after the ankle injury he suffered last week. Joyce already has one pick-six in his brief college career (against Stony Brook), but starting is another matter, and starting in a Big East game still another. You know the Orange are going to try and get players matched up man-to-man on him, or have Chew try and get deep against zone coverage to see if Joyce can make a play.
5. Go for 0. That means something totally different than when Bucs fans used it when the team was hurtling towards an 0-14 expansion year in 1976. As I'm sure you've heard, Syracuse has never beaten USF in football -- never really come close, in fact. That can't last forever, but this would be an inopportune time for the Orange to get their first-ever win in the series. At home, on homecoming, in the heat, with probably better coaching than you had in any of those first five wins… by all appearances, the Bulls should run their all-time record to 6-0 against Syracuse on Saturday. Just like the last two opponents, USF shouldn't allow the Orange to get a quasi-signature win on their watch.