I was holding out for some help from Over the Pylon, but unfortunately real life got in the way and we didn't have time to put together a proper Q&A for this afternoon's game between USF and Ball State. So let's try and figure out what the Bulls need to do to get back in the win column today:
1. Challenge Ball State's offense. Last week was the first real indicator that we might be getting what we feared out of a Chris Cosh defense. It gave up 424 yards to Rutgers, stayed on the field for over 38 minutes, recorded only one sack, and didn't take the ball away (Rutgers' only turnover was on a muffed punt). USF is one of only 11 teams in FBS that still haven't recorded an interception. Ball State's going to throw the ball, and you should be more talented than they are, even with some of the recent issues in the secondary. Play up on the receivers, get to Keith Wenning, make him throw bad passes, and turn them over. The Bulls can't afford to let the game come to them.
2. Cultivate some more receiving targets. With Chris Dunkley out of the game, the Cardinals seem likely to roll coverage over to Andre Davis and make B.J. Daniels throw it to someone else as much as possible. It's going to have to be someone -- either Terrence Mitchell, or Derrick Hopkins, Starting Receiver, or Deonte Welch, or the neglected tight ends, or...
3. Firm up the interior offensive line. The Bulls did some shuffling this week, but on the edges of the line rather than the middle. Mark Popek moved back out to left tackle, and he may start there on Saturday, with Damien Edwards taking his place at left guard. But USF had a lot of issues with Austin Reiter at center. Rutgers attacked the A-gap between Reiter and right guard Danous Estenor repeatedly. That caused Daniels to flee the pocket and blow up the progression of several plays.
4. Don't fumble away a punt. Pretty self-explanatory there. Hang on to the ball, T-Rex, or Skip's going to put Landi in to field punts and there won't be any more punt returns this season.
5. Try and get this game over with. Easier said than done, because this isn't likely to be the mismatch it was last year. (USF could have scored a lot more than 37 points in that game if they'd wanted to -- Daniels was pulled after three quarters, and they squandered a number of scoring opportunities.) And there's no question USF will wonder what they're doing there, and they'll be looking forward to FSU a little bit. The motivation gap will be noticeable, although maybe not as big as it could have been. Ball State might be in for a little bit of a letdown after a thrilling last-second win in Bloomington last Saturday. So while that makes things a little easier, if the Bulls can get out to a safe lead, the Cardinals' psychological edge won't matter anymore.