USF is getting $700K to head up to the Swamp this weekend, which in the world of big-time college football is sacrificial lamb money.
But it’s what you do with the paycheck that counts.
Appalachian State received $400K in 2007 to go into the Big House and shocked 109,000 fans, knocking off Michigan to become the first unranked I-AA team to beat a ranked I-A team in college football history.
September has proven to be the best month to get a good investment on your upset dollar. The season is new and the so-called powerhouses are often not quite ready.
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It has also been a very good month for USF football.
Over the past three years, the Bulls are 14-0 in September. Their victims include a victory at 13th-ranked Auburn in ’07, a win over No. 11 Kansas in 2008 and last year’s signature upset at 18th-ranked FSU.
During this streak USF had the main ingredients that spawn upsets; a quarterback who does not know the meaning of fear, a defense that can hold its own and some breaks with turnovers.
These current Bulls already have one-third of the equation at quarterback in B.J. Daniels.
The FSU game was his first career start after Matt Grothe was lost for the season with a knee injury. Going back to his hometown against a legendary program would have been overwhelming for most freshmen, but Daniels relished the moment.
He rushed for a net 126 yards and threw two TD passes while FSU lost the ball four times on fumbles.
Daniels is a rarity. He prefers playing in hostile environments.
“I’m a road guy. I like seeing the different stadiums and atmospheres. That’s the cool thing about college football. I looked forward to Florida State and I’m definitely looking forward to Florida,” he says with his perpetual smile.
The redshirt sophomore is talented enough to put up points against one of the best defenses in the country, but his legs can get him in trouble when he gets too daring for his own good.
USF head coach Skip Holtz wants his young quarterback to play within the system and not be allowed to run wild as he often did under former Bulls coach Jim Leavitt.
“I would hate to see him get out of our system and then we just start playing sandlot ball, where we are dropping back running around and just trying to find an open guy,” Holtz says. “The challenge that B.J. has had is to learn a new offense and play within the system and understand it well enough when everything is coming at him full speed.”
Holtz set the bench mark at 16 points, noting Meyer is 37-0 when Florida gives up 16 points or less.
It puts the impetus on the Bulls defense to make Gators QB John Brantley play like he is not the right guy to operate Meyer’s spread offense. USF can’t expect Florida center Mike Pouncey to again look like he is bowling for dollars when he snaps out of the shot gun.
“Everyone is saying Florida is broke after last week’s performance because they won by only 22 points, but their defense didn’t give up a touchdowns and gave up only 2.2 yards per rush,” Holtz says. “A team is embarrassed by numbers that 90 percent of the country would take and feel like it was a great day.”
The Bulls defense is the key against the sixth-ranked Gators, particularly the guys in the back four, where Holtz is glad to have veteran Mistral Raymond, who turned 24 on Tuesday.
Holtz fondly calls the Palmetto resident the “old man” of the secondary, which is a nice thing to have when going into Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, where 90,000 plus will spend the day exercising their vocal chords. He can have a calming effect on the young team.
“Florida is next on the schedule so it’s the most important game, that is the way we have to look at it,” Raymond says. “For me, any opportunity I get to play a game is special.”
Holtz repeated the time worn coach’s cliché that football teams show their biggest improvement from game one to game two and doesn’t expect Florida to repeat the errors it made last week.
“It’s one of those double-edge swords. If I was sitting there watching a rout I may have already went home and said forget it we don’t have a chance,” Holtz says. “However, I know their players will be extremely determined because of the way they played. We just have to control what we can control. What happened to them is irrelevant to our preparation. We’ve got more than we can say grace over in our camp and have to improve on.”