Unfamiliar foes: USF

Our series taking a team-by-team look at the marquee nonconference faces the future American Athletic Conference will see in the fall ends today with USF.

To read previous entries, click here.

Offensive opponent to watch: Miami RB Duke Johnson

I could have gone with quarterback Stephen Morris here, considering his value to the Miami offense. Bulls fans, I am sure, are quite familiar with both Johnson and Morris after their 40-9 loss to the Hurricanes last season. Morris was the star of that game, throwing for 413 yards and three touchdowns in the lowest point of a pretty bad year for the USF secondary. Johnson, however, is getting much more hype headed into this season as a dark-horse Heisman candidate and one of the top all-around players in the nation. Last year, he had 2,060 all-purpose yards and 13 touchdowns and was selected ACC Rookie of the Year. Given all the running back tradition at the school, it is Johnson who gained a Miami freshman-record 947 yards on the ground, with 10 touchdowns. Looking forward to the matchup between him and what should be a very good USF defensive front.

Defensive opponent to watch: Michigan State LB Max Bullough

The Spartans defense is full of top-notch players, but none better than their starting middle linebacker. Bullough goes into his third season as the starter after being named an All-Big Ten first-team selection last year by the coaches. He led his team and ranked ninth in the Big Ten in tackles with a career-high 111. He ranked second on the team and tied for ninth in the Big Ten with 12.5 tackles for loss. My colleagues over at the Big Ten blog ranked him No. 15 in their postseason countdown of the Top 25 players in the Big Ten for 2012. Bullough had a chance to leave for the NFL draft but decided to return for his senior season. He will once again be the leader of this Spartans D. It's safe to say he will make his presence felt against the Bulls.