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Homecoming Preview and Open Thread: UConn vs. USF | TV: ESPNU, 12 p.m.

After a successful start, UConn opens second half of the season with a Homecoming matchup against longtime conference foe USF.

UConn quarterback Bryant Sheriffs has been a key factor in the Huskies' early success this season.
UConn quarterback Bryant Sheriffs has been a key factor in the Huskies' early success this season.
Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

It's official, it cannot get any worse than last year.

UConn is fresh off a 40-13 beatdown of UCF in the "conFLiCT" rivalry game to improve the Huskies to 3-3 overall. After finishing last season with a disappointing 2-10 record, we can officially say this year is an improvement. When the season kicked off seven weeks ago few would have predicted the Huskies would already have three wins and a chance for four or five with a schedule that included Missouri or BYU.

What’s been interesting in the first half of the season is the emergence of The American as the dominant "Group of 5" conference. There are three undefeated teams—HoustonTemple and Memphis—who are gaining attention on the national stage. Memphis has a huge opportunity Saturday to make a name for itself when the Tigers host Ole Miss. Imagine the pandemonium at The Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium if Memphis knocks off the Rebels.

Keep in mind UConn still needs to play Houston and Temple toward the end of the season, which doesn’t bode well for—dare I say it—a potential bowl bid. Before Husky fans can even entertain the idea of a postseason bowl game, UConn needs to handle the remaining winnable games on its schedule, starting with USF Saturday at Rentschler Field.

USF brings back so many fond memories. Who can forget Dave Teggart’s field goal in 2009 to send the Huskies to the PapaJohn’ Bowl, where UConn beat South Carolina. And who can forget when Teggart kicked the Huskies to the top of the mountain with another last-second field goal that sent UConn to the Fiesta Bowl.

Oh, the memories. Unfortunately, Teggart is not walking through the door, and the Huskies have a lot of repair work left to do to improve their overall image. UConn has not beaten the Bulls since 2011, when the Huskies won 16-10 without scoring an offensive touchdown. In this year’s contest UConn will have a much easier time putting points on the scoreboard, thanks in part to Arkeel Newsome, who has become quite the Renaissance man.

Newsome was awarded the American's Special Teams Player of the Week honor after he racked up 106 yards on three huge kickoff returns against UCF. In addition to his special teams play, Newsome tailed 84 rushing yards and scored two touchdowns. It was quite the weekend in Orlando for the sophomore from Ansonia.

USF is a tricky opponent because you’re not sure what team will show up. The Bulls recently defeated Syracuse (nice) 45-24, but dropped games to Florida State, Maryland and Memphis. The Huskies can ride the wave of momentum with their victory over UCF and defeat an inconsistent South Florida squad. One might think the "conFLiCT" trophy is silly, but if it motivates the guys in the locker room to perform and excel on the field, leave it be. Playing for your school and your teammates should be enough motivation, but if it takes a trophy and a little pat on the back then so be it.

This Saturday’s game will also be Homecoming so many alumni will be back, reconnecting with their old classmates. A year ago they might have not had any interest even going into the stadium, but if this team is going to show up and compete, all UConn fans should give them a chance to prove this is a different team than years past.

With the announcement that UConn will play Boston College next season, it’s nice to see college football slowly returning to relevance in the Nutmeg State.