After talk of possibly being included in the national title game just two weeks ago, South Florida might be in danger of falling out of the Top 25 if it fails to avoid its first three-game losing streak in nearly two years.
The 20th-ranked Bulls attempt to halt their skid Saturday when they host stumbling Cincinnati, a team that has already dropped out of the rankings.
Oddsmakers from Bodog.com have made South Florida -5 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday's game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 63% of bets for this game have been placed on South Florida -5 (View College Football bet percentages).
South Florida (6-2, 1-2 Big East) has lost its last two games after being ranked No. 2 in the Associated Press poll - its highest ranking ever - on Oct. 14 following a season-opening six-game winning streak.
The Bulls followed that run with a 30-27 loss at Rutgers on Oct. 18 to fall to No. 11 in the rankings before a 22-15 defeat at Connecticut last weekend. South Florida hasn't dropped three contests in a row since closing out the 2005 season with a three-game slide.
The Bulls trailed 16-0 at the half last weekend before pulling within four points in the fourth quarter, but after sophomore quarterback Matt Grothe drove them inside the UConn 2-yard line with just over a minute to go, he was hit for a 10-yard loss and then threw a fourth-down pass out of the end zone.
"We wasted too many opportunities," South Florida coach Jim Leavitt said. "We're proud of our guys. We battled our tails off. ... We didn't play good enough for 60 minutes of football, that's for sure."
South Florida has been shaky on defense lately, as the unit has allowed 329 rushing yards with four passing touchdowns and only one interception and four sacks in the last two games. During their six-game winning streak, the Bulls yielded 106.3 rushing yards and gave up six TD passes with 12 picks and 20 sacks.
Offensively, Grothe has been subpar in the last two weeks, completing 51.6 percent of his passes for 436 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions. He went 16-for-30 with 189 yards and two picks against Connecticut, but rushed for 146 yards with a touchdown to become the second South Florida player to pass for 4,000 yards and rush for 1,000 in a career.
Grothe hopes to rebound against a Cincinnati team he struggled against in his only career meeting, a 23-6 road loss on Oct. 22, 2006. He completed only 11 of 21 passes for 47 yards and an interception, while rushing for 22 yards on seven carries.
South Florida has split four all-time meetings against Cincinnati (6-2, 1-2), with the home team winning each contest.
The Bearcats are hoping a week off can help them rebound from consecutive defeats that cost them a spot in the Top 25 after climbing as high as 15th on Oct. 7 following a 6-0 start.
They fell 28-24 to Louisville on Oct. 13 before a surprising 24-17 loss at Pittsburgh the next weekend. Cincinnati's defense allowed two Panthers' running backs to rush for over 100 yards each, while the offense turned the ball over three times.
"I don't think being ranked No. 15 affected us," said Bearcats quarterback Ben Mauk, who was 21-for-32 for 237 yards and one interception against Pittsburgh while failing to throw a TD pass for the first time this season. "We're focused on what we have to do as a team, and we know that being ranked doesn't mean you'll win games."
Despite the slide, Mauk feels Cincinnati's first Big East title is still attainable. The team is tied with South Florida and trails first-place Connecticut by two games.
"I don't think the two losses take us out of the running for the Big East Championship at all. It's the kind of conference where any team can beat any other team on any given week. We need to not worry about anybody else and just make sure we take care of business."
Cincinnati has won its last two meetings against ranked opponents with the last one coming on Oct. 6, when it beat then-No. 21 Rutgers 28-23 on the road. Overall, the Bearcats are 6-60 against Top 25 teams.
by: Staff Writers - Email Us
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