Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Prelude to a Season... #22

#22.) South Florida

What You Need to Know: Big things are underway in South Florida, which is surprising considering this team just started playing football 11 years ago. Eleven years isn't long to wait, and the Bulls announced their second nine-win season in as many years with authority shocking Auburn and West Virginia, and oh by the way, showing up at #2 in the first BCS rankings. Non-believers will tell you it was a fluke and point to their mid-season three-game losing wake up call as what USF really was. After rebounding nicely with a three game winning streak to close the year and earn a Sun Bowl berth they year ended sourly as the Bulls were blasted off the field by Oregon 56-21.

This year shapes up nicely for the Bulls, with the Big East having an overall rebuilding year with no team a clear-cut championship favorite. Their early season games are critical and a win against Kansas on September 13th gives USF a great shot at a 6-0 start and some early momentum.

The skill positions are loaded for the Bulls, with QB Matt Grothe, RB Mike Ford, and 11 returning wide receivers/tight ends. Defensively the Bulls return DT George Selvie and LB Tyrone McKenzie. Concerns include a talented offensive line with depth problems, as well as replacing 2 starting cornerbacks now playing in the NFL.

Who You Need to Know and Their 07 Stats:
QB Matt Grothe: 2670 pass yds, 872 rush yds, 24 total TD
RB Mike Ford: 645 yards, 12 TD
DT George Selvie: 14.5 sacks, 31.5 tackles for loss

Game To Watch: The aforementioned early-season showdown against Kansas on 9/13. Rutgers on 11/15. West Virginia on 12/6

They'll Do Well If...: Grothe turns down the turnovers, the OL stays healthy, the front 7 on the defense take pressure off the young secondary.

Season Outlook: Nine wins, like last year, isn't totally out of the question for South Florida. The Big East is way down this year and its very likely the winner of the West Virginia-South Florida contest on 12/6 is in the drivers seat for the league. Expect head coach Jim Leavitt to ratchet up the intensity as always and drive this team to within striking distance of their first BCS berth.

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