Saturday Five Keys: USF vs. Miami

As you get ready for today's in-state matchup with the Hurricanes, here's what the Bulls might need to do to claim another win over Miami:

1. Throw the records out. Miami's 5-5 record is extremely deceiving. They lost all five games by eight points or less, and the only loss you could really consider bad (at Maryland on Labor Day) was a game where they were missing a boatload of suspended players. This is a much better team than it might look like on paper.

2. Be sharp running the ball. Knowing that B.J. Daniels doesn't have many experienced receivers, it wouldn't surprise me to see the Hurricanes gang up to stop the running game. Miami hasn't done a very good job against the run this year. But last week against Florida State, Miami held the Seminoles to only 63 yards rushing, over 70 yards fewer than their previous season best. And against the triple option of Georgia Tech, they limited the Yellow Jackets to just 2.8 yards per carry. Miami is capable of playing good run defense, and they have the speed to make the reads and veer plays less effective than they are in Big East play. The more Darrell Scott can play, the better, because USF may have to try and run straight ahead more than usual.

3. Can you make Jacory Harris do Jacory Harris things? By which I mean, can you make him throw bad passes and get intercepted? Not many teams have done that to him this season -- in fact, he's completing 64% of his passes, by far the best percentage of his career, and he only has five INTs against 19 touchdown passes. He's taking much better care of the ball (he might also be getting help from the Miami game plans) and his world-famous armpunts look like they will be few and far between. USF will have to cause confusion in his reads and try to get pressure on him, which is also going to be hard. Miami has only allowed 13 sacks all season, even though Harris and backup Stephen Morris are not especially mobile.

4. Keep Lamar Miller in check. Sort of like Bobby Rainey last year, or Isaiah Pead this year, you can't go in planning to stop Miami's top offensive threat. Miller already has 1108 yards rushing (including six 100-yard games) and he averages 5.7 yards per attempt. Using Miller and his backup, Mike James, to control the game on the ground is probably very high on Al Golden's to-do list. What USF can't do is let them get 8 and 10-yard runs and then become susceptible to play action and long passes in run situations.

5. Got any tricks in that bag? Last year Miami was the more talented team, but they more or less beat themselves against USF and it got Randy Shannon fired. That probably won't happen this year, and the Hurricanes are still the more talented team (although hopefully the talent gap won't get even bigger during the game like it did last year, when Daniels and Sampson Genus both left with injuries). So if the Bulls feel good about a gadget or two, this wouldn't be a bad time to use them. Miami's already shown they can be vulnerable to trick plays -- when Virginia beat them a few weeks ago, they converted a fake field goal and threw a halfback option pass for a score. We know Todd Fitch and Skip Holtz don't exactly like to let their hair down in the game plan, but it might be worth considering.

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