With the college football season now less than 30 days from starting, GDB's resident expert Young Swole will begin unleashing his preseason top 25. Today we look at the South Florida Bulls.
For a time in 2007, South Florida seemed to be the cinderella team that could possibly win it all. They were a unknown school with a bunch of no-name players who seemed to have a chance at making it all the way to the championship games as other teams lost all around them. The Bulls couldn't maintain the momentum however, and their season ended with a whimper when they recieved a colossal ass whooping at the hands of Oregon in the Sun Bowl. Don't look for South Florida to go back to irrelevance though, they return a lot of players and have a shot at being just as good this year, but will they be able to maintain success now that they won't sneak up on anyone?
Offense: The Bulls return virtually everyone of note from their offense last year. Matt Grothe returns at quarterback and is a versatile player, but also suffers from Brett Favre-itis in that he forces a lot of throws leading to mistakes and is generally thought to be much better than he is. The key to this offense is whether Mike Ford can carry the load at running back. He's supposed to be an all-world talent but he goes down too easily for his size and also has had fumbling problems. If he can step it up then look for this offense to really take off. Taurus Johnson is a solid wide receiver and should give Grothe a good option to spread the field. If the Bulls can cut down on their offensive mistakes and simply make the plays they need to instead to of trying to do too much, then they should be one of the top offenses in the Big East.
Defense: South Florida is led on defense by George Selvie, who was the most disruptive defense lineman in the nation last year, including Glenn Dorsey and Vernon Gholston. Selvie is simply too quick for interior linemen to stop, sort of like a new age John Randle. His presence alone makes the Bulls defense intimidating, and its likely as a junior that his numbers will be even more impressive this season. The other strength on the Bulls defense were their cornerbacks. But after Mike Jenkins and Trae Williams went to the NFL, the cornerback position now appears to be a question mark. If the newcomers can hold their own, then the front 7 should be able to handle the rest. Not only are players like Tyrone McKenzie and Nate Allen experienced veterans, but they are the type of speedy defenders that disrupt opposing offenses and have led the South Florida renaissance.
Coaching: Jim Leavitt has built this program from scratch, and has quite possibly made it the second most consistent program in the entire state of Florida behind the Gators. His intensity is second to none and it shows in his players. He signs the smaller guys that the big Florida schools don't want, and then turns them into Division 1 players full of intensity and trademark Florida speed. While bigger schools will probably offer him a ton of money in the next few years if he continues the program's ascent, Leavitt is perfect for South Florida and seems to be on the cusp of something even bigger than where he has already gotten this school to.
Predicted schedule and outcomes:
UT - Martin - W
@ Central Florida - W
Kansas - W
@ Florida International - W
@ NC State - W
Pittsburgh - W
Syracuse - W
@ Louisville - L
@ Cincinnati - L
Rutgers - W
Connecticut - W
@ West Virginia - L
Just like in 2007, it looks like South Florida is primed for a very fast start to their season. The early schedule sets up great for them. The game against Kansas is just the type that Leavitt's players love, and the humidity in Tampa in early September is no joke which could lead to a South Florida blowout. The most dangerous early season game in my eyes is at NC State which could be a look ahead game with a matchup with Pitt only 5 days later. If South Florida can make it through those two I think they will be 7-0. Unfortunately I'm still not sold on Matt Grothe playing consistent enough on the road to carry the glory along much longer. Louisville will be extra hype for a big Thursday game and Grothe will probably do some stupid things during that game to help the Cardinals. Cincinnati is just as fast as South Florida and could very easily upset them on the road. After recovering at home, the Bulls will then head to West Virginia. While their fast defense sets up perfectly to stop West Virginia's spread option, i find it impossible for Pat White to lose to them three straight years. Remember that South Florida barely beat WVU even after White was injured in the 2nd quarter, this year is payback in Morgantown. 9-3 is still an impressive season, and with Grothe and Selvie both eligible to come back next year, 2009 could be the true title contending season in Tampa.