By JIM LOUK
Here we are. Conference season. It's time to learn a little more about the 2011 Bulls football team.
What we know so far is pretty promising. If I offered you a deal one month ago that had the Bulls hitting this game 4-0, averaging well over 40 points per game, outscoring their opponents 65-7 in the first quarter and being relatively injury free, would you have taken it? How about if I threw in eight touchdown passes and one interception for B.J. Daniels?
All in all, it's been a very good month. But as we know, the last chapter in the book of September will be the most important. This is the beginning of what the players and coaches have been working for from the moment they walked off the field at Bank of America Stadium last Dec. 31.
From the beginning this series against Pittsburgh has been a strange one. It started with the most improbable of Bulls wins, the 35-26 stunner back in 2001 when the Bulls were transitioning from 1-AA. Overall, Pittsburgh leads the series 5-3, but being at home hasn't necessarily been an advantage. Two of the three Bulls wins have come at Heinz Field, and four of the five Pitt wins have come in Tampa. The other USF win at Pitt came in 2007 when the Bulls outscored the Panthers 48-37, highlighted by a Matt Grothe 80-yard touchdown run.
Last year's game was much different and mirrored the frustrations of the 2010 conference season for the Bulls, as they couldn't generate enough offense in a 17-10 defeat in Tampa.
Thursday night we will see how the Bulls suddenly potent offense matches up with the Panthers, who are probably ready to hit anyone in sight after heartbreaking losses at Iowa and at home against Notre Dame in the past two weeks.
The Bulls defense will have its hands full with the latest in a very long line of top flight Pittsburgh running backs. Ray Graham is both the team's leading rusher and leading receiver and really makes its offense go.
For the Bulls, Terrence Mitchell continues to feel better, but won't be available Thursday. Everyone else should be ready to go.
We made our journey north Wednesday night. The pregame show starts at 6 p.m. Thursday with kickoff around 8 p.m. on 970 WFLA and affiliates throughout Florida. Television will be on ESPN and it will be a 3D broadcast for both of you who own 3D televisions.
Sorry, radio guys love to take shots at TV. Actually it will be pretty cool to watch if you have the chance. You can also join Bulls fans at the Muvico on Bruce B. Downs to watch in 3D there if you wish.
It's time to see if the Bulls can run the table in September. Then it's off for 16 days until a visit to Hartford.