USF will have hands full on road with Louisville
After three fairly close calls on the road, unbeaten Louisville returns home with a good chance to have a much easier time.
Playing the first of three consecutive home games, the 16th-ranked Cardinals look for another solid effort rushing the ball and will face the Big East's worst run defense Saturday in a matchup with struggling South Florida.
The Cardinals (6-0, 1-0) survived some scares on the road against unranked foes over the past month to stay undefeated. They won those three games by an average of 7.0 points and did not lead at halftime in any of them, including last Saturday's 45-35 victory at Pittsburgh to open conference play.
Louisville hasn't played at home since a Sept. 15 win over North Carolina. This matchup with the Bulls (2-4, 0-2), losers of four in a row, precedes next Friday night's visit from No. 21 Cincinnati and a home game against Temple on Nov. 3.
The Cardinals are 3-0 at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium this year and now seek to win four straight at home for the first time since a 20-game run spanning the 2003-2007 seasons.
"It's good to always come back home to our place," coach Charlie Strong told the team's official website. "I tell our players, now that we're home, we have to defend our home stadium."
Senorise Perry returns home as the reigning Big East offensive player of the week. The junior had his second straight 100-yard rushing game last Saturday with 101 on 12 carries and a career-high four touchdowns, giving him a conference-leading nine.
Teammate Jeremy Wright is second with six TDs, including one last week, as he continues to share carries with Perry. Wright is fifth in the conference with 450 yards rushing while Perry ranks second with 559.
Perry became the first Louisville running back to score four times in a game since Michael Bush in 2005.
"He is an interesting kid," center Mario Benavides told the team's official website. "He works his butt off. Whatever the coaches ask him to do, whether it is special teams or anything, he does."
Perry and Wright could be in for another big day against a South Florida defense which has allowed Big East highs of 173.5 rushing yards per game and 12 touchdowns on the ground.
The Bulls are 5-4 in this all-time series, including a 24-21 overtime win in 2010 when the programs last met in Louisville. Last year, though, Teddy Bridgewater's three touchdown passes helped rally the Cardinals from a 14-point deficit to win 34-24 in Tampa.
Bridgewater is coming off one of the best performances of his career. The sophomore completed 17 of 26 passes for 304 yards with a 75-yard touchdown to DeVante Parker and no interceptions last Saturday.
"Opening up the Big East schedule with a win is a big confidence boost for us," Bridgewater said. "Hopefully it will send a message to the rest of the Big East."
The Cardinals, off to their best start since 2006, are facing a South Florida defense which yields a conference-worst 27.5 points per game and an average of 438.6 total yards against FBS programs.
The Bulls offense is led by senior quarterback B.J. Daniels. He's thrown for 1,504 yards and 10 TDs while ranking second on the team with 277 rushing yards and four scores.
"If you look at South Florida, they have anywhere from 20-23 seniors and a lot of those seniors are fifth-year guys, so the talent is there," Strong said. "Their quarterback, B.J. Daniels, runs and throws the ball very well, but what's key for them is playing and coming together."
The Bulls are coming off their bye week, and one thing they may have worked on is taking better care of the ball. They have 14 giveaways and rank 115th in the country in turnover margin.
"I think the attitude is good and they're working hard," coach Skip Holtz said. "I think they're excited to have an opportunity to get back into game week again."