Bulls hope to end trends against Louisville

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
Nothing has determined the outcome of the South Florida-Louisville series quite like geography.

In their five meetings since 2003, the home team has won every time, and usually quite convincingly. The Bulls have taken the last two in Tampa by a combined 69 points, including last year's 55-17 beatdown. Louisville, meanwhile, has crushed South Florida by a combined score of 72-17 at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, site of the series' latest installment Saturday.

Why has this series been so lopsided in favor of the home team?

"That's a good question," USF senior linebacker Tyrone McKenzie said. "The good thing is, somebody's going to have to break the streak, and hopefully it's us."

The No. 16 Bulls are more concerned with stopping another trend this weekend. More so than home turf, the ground game seems to determine success or failure for South Florida.

Sure, the team has good statistics against the run this year, allowing only 77.3 yards per game and leading the Big East in that category. But the truth is, none of the Bulls' early opponents put much effort or skill into running the ball. The best nonconference team they played, Kansas, made no pretense of handing it off.

Then Pittsburgh came into Raymond James Stadium and ran for 146 yards -- 142 of them by LeSean McCoy -- in a 26-21 win. Even last week against Syracuse, the Bulls gave up 100 yards rushing in the first half to Curtis Brinkley before dominating the second half.

In three of South Florida's four losses last year, opposing running backs had big days. Rutgers' Ray Rice had 181 yards when the Scarlet Knights ended the Bulls' unbeaten season. UConn's Andre Dixon compiled 167 yards the following week in another loss. And in Oregon's 56-21 blowout of the Bulls in the Sun Bowl, Jonathan Stewart amassed 253 yards.

Now comes Louisville, which is averaging 210 yards rushing per game, led by Victor Anderson and Brock Bolen.

"After the Pittsburgh game, I'm sure everyone will try to run the ball on us," senior linebacker Brouce Mompremier said. "We accept that challenge. We love that type of game, that physical game. I've always felt we were a good run defense."

The Bulls say McCoy's big day was an aberration, because injuries to guys like George Selvie, Terrell McClain and Mompremier left them undermanned. The Syracuse second half, in which the Orange mustered nine total yards, is more indicative of what the defense can do at full strength, they believe.

"We were missing a couple of guys, but now we're getting healthy again," McKenzie said. "I hope they try to run the ball down our throats and come out with a game plan to get your nose bloody. That's what football is all about anyway."

Here's their chance to prove they can stop a high-powered rushing attack, and defy the geography rules of this series.