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2008 magicJack St. Petersburg Bowl Preview

Memphis (6-6, 4-4; C-USA) vs. South Florida (7-5, 2-5; Big East)

December 20th, 2008 @ 4:30 PM (EST) – ESPN2 – St. Petersburg, Florida

This is the first year for the St. Petersburg Bowl and the organizers have to be pretty happy that hometown USF suffered a disappointing season and fell into their laps. Facing off against the hometown team will be plucky Memphis, which rebounded from a 0-3 start to finish with a 6-6 record.

Memphis’ top offensive weapon is junior tailback Curtis Steele, who averaged 5.7 yards per carry en route to a 1,175 yard season. Junior quarterback Arkelon Hall has had some injury troubles this year but he can be explosive. On defense, the Tigers have allowed more than thirty points six times but are coming off of the season’s best effort, a 45-6 blowout of Tulane.

The Bulls, on the other hand, have had a lot of trouble in Big East play, losing four of their last five games. Their biggest trouble has been putting points on the board, scoring less than 21 in every game during their late season stretch. However, South Florida definitely has the personnel to put up points, as exhibited by their thrilling 37-34 win over Kansas earlier this year. Junior quarterback Matt Grothe doubles as the team’s leading rusher and will be a vital part of the Bulls’ effort to beat Memphis. South Florida’s defense, however, is a strong unit and will definitely have the advantage whenever they are on the field.

While looking at common opponents is an unscientific experiment at best, Memphis and USF have both played Louisville and UCF. Memphis went 0-2 while USF 1-1, defeating Central Florida early in the year. Obviously, that doesn’t really explain a lot about the two teams but it is worth noting that both played Louisville in mid-October and both lost in similar fashion. However, when looking at both teams’ schedules, there is really no comparison. USF has played a much tougher schedule and has beaten much better opposition. Furthermore, the Bulls have a significantly stronger defense.

The deciding factors in this game will definitely be USF’s defense and home field advantage. Remember the advantage the LSU had in last year’s National Title Game? How about USC the past decade in the Rose Bowl? While I certainly don’t think USF’s home field advantage will come close to either of those powerhouses, there is definitely an advantage to preparing at your own practice facility and sleeping in your own bed. USF’s offense should get healthy against Memphis’ porous unit and George Selvie and company should be able to contain Memphis’ offensive attack. Look for USF to finish off a disappointing year with a victory over the Tigers.

St. Petersburg Bowl Pick: South Florida 27 - Memphis 10


by Matt Baxendell Staff Writer

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