BLOOMINGTON, IN - SEPTEMBER 15: Steven Schott #14 of the Ball State Cardinals celebrates after kicking a 42-yard field goal as time expires against the Indiana Hoosiers during the during the game at Memorial Stadium on September 15, 2012 in Bloomington, Indiana. Ball State won 41-39. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
USF is taking a not necessarily uncharacteristic road trip to a non-BCS opponent this week, looking to build their confidence before the biggest test of the season next week. After the short turnaround between two very worthy opponents in the past week, the Bulls got an extra few days to recover before making the trip up to Muncie, Indiana. Now, fully rested, USF is looking to get back in the win column before getting back into the seven-day work schedule. Ball State is coming off a third straight victory in their annual matchup with intrastate rivals, Indiana, with a game-winning 42 yard field goal at the very end.
In general, USF's passing game has not been quite on par. Save for a handful of long miracles, the Bulls haven't done much moving of the ball either on the ground or in the air. A large factor in that is the fact that USF's tight end lineup, despite its depth, is not getting many targets through the first games of the season. Landi leads the tight ends with two catches this year, and Andreas Shields has the only other reception. USF has made a living on converting third downs with their big men over the middle in recent seasons, and they may need to revert back to old ways if the offense is going to be productive as a whole again.
The offensive line did not allow a sack in Thursday night's game against Rutgers. However, that's mostly because B.J. spent the whole game scrambling, spending virtually no time in the pocket. Because of the weakness of the line in the first three games, USF's run game has been pretty much nonexistent. The team will be working with a few different lineups in this game to determine what works best.
The line appeared weak on Thursday for multiple reasons, but no doubt one factor was Mark Popek playing Left Guard after being moved from the tackle position to make room for Darrell Williams. After the game, Holtz expressed his concern with the play of Williams and Austin Reiter. Now, it looks like Popek could move back to his old position and senior Damien Edwards will fill the vacant spot.
USF's defense played relatively well in its first three games, but it biggest burden has been getting off the field. On first and second downs, the defense has been holding runners down pretty well, and the secondary has improved. However, on third down, USF has had much trouble forcing the punt, with a defensive efficiency on third down of 45%. A big part in the game this weekend is getting off the field and allowing the offense to make plays.
have you noticed something different about this year's defense? Like, they haven't picked off any passes yet? Last year, the defense had forced 11 turnovers in its first three games, with four interceptions. The passiveness of the defensive line has been notable this year, and it's been all up to the secondary to make a play instead of the line forcing a quarterback mistake.
USF's history with BSU coach Pete Lembo goes a bit deeper than last year's 37-7 stat-padding game. Before Lembo ever took the job at Ball State, he was a part of a team that gave the Bulls a bit of a scare in their 2007 season, as the head coach of Elon, an FCS team who took the Bulls into the third quarter with a concerning close score. In the end, USF won 28-13, which was closer than four of their FBS opponents that year.
While we all are expecting a quick victory on the road and a short turnaround to start preparing for the biggest game of the year, the team is not looking past the Cardinals, who have a much more potent offense than last time the two met.
Ball State has had a few BCS opponents come to town, but USF may be their best-matched chance at a win over a legitimate BCS team. The Cardinals played against Clemson a few weeks back, and they're taking everything they learned from defending him and using it to play B.J. Daniels.