Collin Sherwin and the crew formerly known as Voodoo Five on SB Nation have always been friends of ours. Moving from the Big East to the American together has forged a kinship only made stronger by watching both of our football teams rise and fall at around the same times.
Today, again, it looks like both teams are on similar trajectories. USF is coming off a 45-24 win over Syracuse and are looking to spoil UConn's homecoming in what would be a fourth straight win for the Bulls over the Huskies. UConn is 3-3 and looking slightly ahead of schedule on a rebuild.
Collin has since moved his team over to 247 Sports, but we remain friendly on the Twitters and in the Q&A exchange market. He was kind enough to share some thoughts about the USF team and more.
1) As I understand it, your offense made a philosophical shift earlier this season and it seems like it's helping the team maximize its talents. Would you say that the new offensive scheme is doing well?
That philosophical shift is exactly 30 minutes of game play old. The second half against Syracuse came out of exactly nowhere, and was filled with all the things fans had been begging for since Willie Taggart's arrival; still relying on the run game, but trusting your passer to do more than hand it off. Putting in some elements to keep defenses off balance (see the double reverse TD pass on the second possession of the third quarter).
A lot of us got really excited about seeing it, but they'll need to do it again before we believe it's not just a mirage, or at minimum just part of the gameplan to attack an absolutely horrendous Orange pass defense. They've said all the right things about letting it fly and open up in press conferences, but after 28.5 games of three-and-a-cloud, I need more convincing.
2) You wrote a piece this offseason about how you have already given up on USF's season. I would say things are looking slightly better than expected, so have you changed your thoughts in that regard?
"Giving up" for me meant I thought they'd go 4-8, because I think there's a very slim chance Willie Taggart survives if this team doesn't make a bowl game. I thought Taggart was too stubborn, and Quinton Flowers wasn't talented enough, to get to six wins.
But if they're really going to run something close to a modern offense, there's a chance they get there. This team has shown zero ability to adjust over 2.5 seasons, but if they're really going to do it, maybe it's possible?
The defense has been really good some weeks and behind others. They'll need to play lights out to get there.
3) Bob Diaco invented a rivalry for UConn's games with UCF. They've always felt like you guys were their rivals, though it hasn't been reciprocated. What's your beef with them?
We really, really dislike each other severely. C. Florida is I think by acclaim one of the more disliked fanbases in college sports, and having them in our ear from even before we played our first football game has been beyond annoying. Now that it seems unlikely we're getting out of this conference morass without them as a travel & cable TV partner, it's even worse.
Under threat of state legislative action, we signed a four game deal with them between 05-08. We won all four (including a 64-12 pasting in 2007 which is why 6412 is still the likely PIN number for any Bulls fan you know over 30), and hoped we'd be done with them. But then we bet on the Big East and the unwavering leadership of John Marinatto... and you know how that goes.
The two years we've been conference mates were literally the worst two seasons in USF history, and we still almost ruined their Fiesta Bowl season in ‘13. If it weren't for a fourth quarter INT by our freshman QB, or a knee down on a pick six by us, they wouldn't have ever gotten over it as a program or institution. We were that close to stealing their soul.
Alas, we didn't. So that's where we are.
4) What are the strengths of the USF defense?
Front four will eat you for breakfast. They're deep, they rotate a lot of bodies, and they get after you. Eric Lee, Deadrin Senat, James Hamilton, Zack Bullock... if you're hearing those names a lot, you're in trouble.
LB's have been the most up-and-down unit, watch out for Jamie Byrd as he can be a playmaker. DB's can cover, but they struggle in dime and beyond... the first wave is pretty good, after that it gets dicey.
5) How is the offensive line?
Well one of them got arrested this week for shooting up a building on campus. He was in jail until yesterday on $30,000 bond. Professional opinion: I don't think he's gonna play this week.
Otherwise it's pretty patchwork. They struggle sometimes to protect and open up holes for three really, really good running backs in Marlon Mack, D'Ernest Johnson, and Darius Tice. Kofi Amichia at LT has been particularly susceptible in pass pro.
But if they can create enough of a hole for those RB's, look out: all those guys can break plays and boogie.
6) How glorious is it for you to watch UCF's fall from grace? I've heard you refer to their program as a "house of cards," why is it like that?
C. Florida was always the program we laughed at as the gang that couldn't shoot straight. They also made themselves so hateable due to the incredibly tone deaf and straight up dumb things they did as a program on a regular basis. Also they cheated a lot. Cliffs on all of this here.
But they found two really good players in Storm Johnson and Blake Bortles, danced through the fumble-bounce-luck rain drops for basically two straight seasons in ‘13 and ‘14, and seemed like they had something on which they could build. That win over Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl was unbelievably impressive, and if it wasn't C. Florida, I'd be really scared that they'd be figuring it out.
They've beaten us twice, and that's something USF fans really struggle with, because they were always the annoying kid brother. But we let them pass us due to our own incompetence, and former athletic director Doug Woolard, and making a terrible fit hire in Skip Holtz. Beating them consistently, in all sports, needs to go back to being a tenet of being a USF Bull again.
Thanks to Collin for taking the time to answer our questions. Looks like USF has UConn a little in the dark as to what they are going to do offensively. UConn's defense will have to be ready for anything. Either way, UConn is looking forward to winning this series for the first time since Dave Teggart kicked three field goals to lead the Huskies to a 16-10 win in 2011.