KICKOFF: Saturday, 12 p.m. ET
GAME DATE: 9/28/13
SITE: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Fla.
SERIES: Miami leads the series 4-1.
AP RANKINGS: Miami, No. 15
KEYS TO THE GAME
South Florida may be winless in three games, but Miami coach Al Golden sees potential pitfalls for his unbeaten Hurricanes when they play their first road game after winning three at home.
Golden noted three concerns:
--The Bulls have several veterans on defense, starting with senior DeDe Lattimore at linebacker, senior Luke Sager and junior Elkino Watson at tackle, and senior JaQuez Jenkins in the secondary, and they have added a potential difference maker in Notre Dame transfer Aaron Lynch at end.
The unit has played well since the opening debacle against McNeese State, a 53-21 loss. Of the seven touchdowns opponents have scored in the last two games, only three have come against USF's defense.
--The Bulls are coming off an open date and will have had extra time to get ready and/or make changes.
"If you're going to put any wrinkles in," Golden said, "that's the time to do it. It's going to be a great challenge, especially in the first 15 plays.
"Whatever adjustments they have made, we must adapt and adjust quickly so we don't have any damage on defense."
--Finally, the Bulls will have a new quarterback with sophomore Steven Bench getting his first collegiate start.
Golden wasn't aware of who the starter was going to be when his weekly press conference began but was informed that USF coach Willie Taggart had announced the Penn State transfer had won the competition with senior Bobby Eveld.
"If Bench is in there, it might be the two-back downhill run game, it might be a little bit pistol where he adds the read elements of it," Golden said. "Like I said, what makes it more difficult is the fact they're coming off a bye week."
Bench will become the third quarterback in four games to start for USF.
Bench, who transferred from Penn State, came on in relief of Eveld in the Bulls' last game and, though he threw an interception in 23 pass attempts, he also gave a moribund Bulls offense some life at times in the 28-10 loss to Florida Atlantic.
He and Eveld have been competing for the job during the extra practices that resulted from the Bulls' open date last weekend.
Taggert said he had made his decision as the Bulls began game-week preparations for Miami but waited until his usual press briefing to announce it.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
--Sophomore RB Duke Johnson is electrifying, creating a sense of anticipation in the stands every time he touches the football, whether it be on a run, pass reception or kickoff return. He is averaging 101.3 yards rushing per game after rushing for 59 yards on just eight carries against Savannah State.
--Freshman RB Gus Edwards got his first extensive action of the season against Savannah State, and though against suspect competition, showed promise with 113 yards on 12 carries. Though No. 4 on the depth chart, at 6 feet 2 and 225 pounds, he gives Miami a big back to go with Johnson (5-9, 196), sophomore Dallas Crawford (5-10, 194), and senior Eduardo Clements (5-9, 192), and he has speed to match his power.
--Junior DE Anthony Chickillo is tied for the team lead in sacks with two, but it's notable that his came against Florida Atlantic and Florida. Freshman DE Al-Quadin Muhammad got both of his against Savannah State.
--Junior LB Denzel Perryman has started since his freshman year and is the unquestioned leader of the defense. Moved back outside after spending most of last season in the middle by necessity, Perryman has 20 tackles, forcing one fumble, and has broken up two passes.
--Senior RB Marcus Shaw has been the one consistent performer on offense for the Bulls. He has 398 yards rushing and showed his breakaway ability with an 80-yard touchdown run on his first carry of the season. He also has five receptions.
--Junior WR Andre Davis has the potential for a big year if the Bulls ever get settled at quarterback. He leads the team with just nine catches for 116 yards.
--Senior LB DeDe Lattimore should be the leader of the defense and must step up if the Bulls are to have a shot at the upset of Miami. He leads the team in tackles with 31.
--Freshman LB Nigel Harris had 12 tackles against Florida Atlantic in his starting debut, probably earning more time in the rotation in the future. He has 16 stops in three games and is credited with forcing a fumble.