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Friday Five Keys: USF vs. Ball State

SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 03: Michael Floyd #3 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish is tackled by Mike Jeune #35 and Armando Sanchez #43 of the University of South Florida Bulls at Notre Dame Stadium on September 3, 2011 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

I haven't been able to watch Ball State's win over Indiana because I don't have access to ESPN 3, so a lot of these insights are being gleaned off the stat sheet. But hopefully they're on the mark for tomorrow's game.

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1. Don't play into Ball State's hands. From reading over some accounts of the game, it seems like Indiana did just that. Instead of trying to take advantage of whatever physical or depth advantages they had, the Hoosiers ran everything so fast (and ineffectively) that their offense was off the field in a hurry. Then their defense wore down against a more efficient Cardinals offense. USF tried to do some of that against Notre Dame last week and had a little bit of success, but in this game the Bulls probably want to play a bit slower and try to lean on Ball State.

2. Get off the field on third down. Ball State was a ridiculous 10-for-14 on third down against Indiana. Only once did the Cardinals face a 3rd down and 10 yards or more, which helps demonstrate how well they stayed on schedule. They also held the ball for over 36 minutes, partly because they were so effective on third down, but also because Indiana was in a hurry to give them the ball back.

3. Open up the passing game a bit. The offense only threw, by my recollection, three passes that went more than 10 yards down the field against Notre Dame. Some of that was by design; the Bulls managed the hell out of that game with their play-calling. But I don't think the Cardinals are going to play off the USF receivers as much as the Irish did. B.J. Daniels will have to loosen them up a little bit by making plays down field.

4. Get a conventional running game going. USF had success running options and zone reads out of their pistol formations, but struggled under center against a stout Notre Dame front seven. Although Ball State's defense did a nice job against Indiana, the Bulls' offensive line has a significant size advantage up front, which they didn't have against the Irish.

5. Find some sanctuary on the field. Obviously this has been the most emotionally draining week in the history of the program. Hopefully the Bulls can use Saturday's game as an opportunity to not worry about everything else going on around them and just play football. This isn't a game USF can win by just showing up to the stadium. But I'm sure the players and coaches will welcome a few hours where they don't have anything on their minds but beating Ball State.

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