Like Ken said earlier in the week, we've done a terrible job getting you ready for this game. Part of it is because the conference realignment drama just sucked up all our attention (even though the best source of news is one we don't want to just spread all over the place, being behind the Bulls 247 paywall). But also, Ken and Toro and I are all going to be in Tampa for the game tomorrow night. Instead of banging this out like I normally would on a Friday evening, I spent the day traveling, spending time with my parents, and buying one of the kick-ass soccer scarves from Bulls Heaven. (They're $14.99, and a steal at twice the price.)
Anyway, here are the delayed Five Keys for Saturday's game against the UTEP Miners:
1. Keep B.J. Daniels rolling. I know it's been against Ball State and Florida A&M, but Daniels has never played two games like that in a row. He threw 736 combined yards against the Cardinals and Rattlers with five touchdowns and only one INT. When the first-team offense is in the game, defenses have not forced USF to punt since the last possession of the Notre Dame game, when the Bulls were mainly trying to run out the clock anyway. I don't know how many more games USF can fluster the opposing defense with their hurry-up offense before the other teams get enough video to catch up to it, but hopefully this is another one. Daniels seems to especially get into a groove when USF is pushing the tempo.
2. Score touchdowns in the red zone. Miner Rush told us that while the UTEP defense is having its problems this year, they've been strong inside the 20-yard line. In their two games against FBS opponents, the Bulls have 10 trips inside the red zone, but only four touchdowns to show for it. As I've said a few times already, this is not something they can do all season and expect to win.
3. Get some pressure on whoever ends up under center for UTEP. The Miners have given up 10 sacks through three games, and on one of them, starting quarterback Nick Lamaison separated his shoulder. Backup Jay Hall has struggled badly, completing just 36% of his passes, and there's a chance he doesn't play on Saturday. UTEP depends on throwing the ball down the field. Whether it's Hall or Carson Meger or someone else at quarterback, getting them unsettled will lead to more bad throws and possibly interceptions.
4. It's a trap! If the coaches didn't do a little bit of preparation in advance for the Pittsburgh game next Thursday, they're either lying or crazy. There won't be much time to get ready, and UTEP runs some of the same formations and sets, so it would have been a good time to pull some double duty. But this is definitely a potential trap game if the Bulls get caught looking ahead to their Big East opener. They have to take care of the Miners first.
5. If you can, get the game over with quickly. Because it's a short week and the Bulls have to travel on top of that, running out to a nice lead tonight would be really helpful if they can manage it. Get everyone some work against a team that's like a less intimidating version of next week's opponent, keep everyone healthy, and move on.