I am going to try to write these without being condescending towards the Rattlers. But this should be the easiest game of the season. As Greg Auman noted yesterday, Florida A&M's last ten games against teams from BCS conferences have ended with them losing by an average score of 53-7. USF's only previous meeting ended with a 37-3 score, and the Rattlers only gained 85 total yards. This is probably not going to be pretty, and here's what the Bulls need to do to make it so:
1. Don't get careless with the football. If I was going to make a list of ways an FBS team could lose to an FCS team, "commit a bunch of turnovers" would be the first thing I wrote down.
2. As Todd Fitch says, get a hat on a hat. The Rattlers love to blitz -- the Bulls' offensive coordinator estimates that they bring the heat on 70% of their defensive snaps. Obviously you want to pick those up to find receivers down the field, but especially in a game like this, you don't want B.J. Daniels getting earholed by linebackers and safeties.
Ken was telling me earlier in the week that Florida A&M runs a version of the 3-3-5 defense, which could be useful later if you remember which team in the Big East runs a 3-3-5. (Hint: Last game of the season.)
3. Don't get cute, do what works. Odds are there will be a lot of things that work in this game. This isn't the week to bust out that awesome fake punt. Jim Leavitt did stuff like that in FCS games a couple of times and it always made me kind of tense, like he was trying to show up an overmatched opponent.
4. Get the backups some meaningful work, and don't get anyone important injured if you can help it. Especially after last week, when the Bulls' backups made a mess out of the end of the Ball State game. Skip Holtz has stated his intention to get the backups into an early part of the game (in addition to the time they'll likely see towards the end). They need a chance to not only redeem themselves, but regain some confidence so that if -- and for a few of them, when -- they're needed later in the season, the coaches don't have to dial it back to protect them from being exposed. And of course, insert appropriate Matt Grothe horror story here.
5. Make sure you look like the 20th-ranked team in the country in the box score. I wrote about how uncompelling the USF game is compared to what else is going on in Florida tomorrow night, and that's just in this state. There are other fun games to watch, too, like Louisville-Kentucky, Syracuse-USC, and Utah-BYU. People who are going to vote in polls are not going to watch this game. They likely won't know anything about this game except what they see in the box score, so it would be a bad time for your defense to give up 375 yards. It's completely unfair, but that's college football for you.
Side note: A lot of times when a team in USF's position gets in trouble against an FCS team, it's because they get caught looking ahead to a big game the following week. The Bulls don't have that problem -- their next game is against UTEP, who shouldn't be a huge obstacle. So their full attention should be on taking care of business against Florida A&M.