The ESPN hype-machine will be in full force leading up until next Thursday night.

USF, ranked No. 23 in the Associated Press poll, hosts No. 8 Cincinnati on Thursday, Oct. 15 in another season-changing type game. Fair or not, the winner will most likely be tagged the favorite to win the Big East.

USF (5-0) and Cincinnati (5-0) each have byes this week, so each team will have a few extra days to prepare for the other.

“It helps a lot because you have extra time to work on things, like film studying. It is going to be helpful,” said senior Nate Allen. “We get to rest a little bit, too.”

They also get almost an extra week of preparation for the Bearcats, a team USF hasn’t beaten since 2005. Last year, Cincinnati beat USF 24-10, one of the Bulls’ five conferences losses after being ranked as high as No. 10 in the country early in the year.

“We started off strong and we got to the middle of the season where we started playing BIG EAST games and we just slumped,” Allen said of last year’s team. “To be great you can’t do that. To be great you need to have a great season.”

Part of the process, Allen said, is convincing the team to not get caught up in the rankings.  The Bulls have been ranked in the top 10 each of the last two years, including a No. 2 ranking in 2007.  That year, USF lost its next three games after being ranked No. 2.  Last year, USF lost four of five after being ranked No. 10.

“We can’t think about it,” Allen said. “We have to stay focused. In the past we have gotten ranked and it has got to us.”

-Phil Neary