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South Florida Bulls
South Florida was one of the most improved teams in the conference last year and was only a game off the AAC East, finishing 6-2 in conference play, 8-5 overall. The Bulls made it to a bowl game as well, a year after finishing with four total wins, although lost in a high-scoring game to Western Kentucky. With loads of talent set to return, Willie Taggart's team has their eyes on an AAC title and bowl win.
Running back Marlon Mack might be the biggest name returning to the backfield after 1,381 yards and eight touchdowns, but this offense wouldn't be as good if it wasn't for quarterback Quinton Flowers, who added 991 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground. But most importantly, Flowers was able as a passer, going for 22 TD and just 8 INTs, while completing 59.1% of his passes. Sure, there's room for improvement, but his dual-threat ability along with Mack let this team be competitive in every game. And that should be the case yet again.
Top receiver Rodney Adams (45 receptions, 822 yards, 9 TDs) returns to the mix to go with NC State transfer Marquez Valdes-Scantling and a couple other returnees. The main question will be on the offensive line. After being such a consistent unit last year, the line lost three starters and will need to replace them quick with a tough non-conference slate. At the least, left tackle Kofi Amichia is one of the best in the conference.
The Bulls were also much better defensively last year, running a 4-2-5 scheme that was extremely aggressive. They lost their coordinator, but linebackers coach Raymond Woodie is expected to keep the same system, which can only be a good idea with seven returning starters.
To help, USF has a number of all-conference performers starting with linebacker Auggie Sanchez, who finished with 117 tackles last year. The secondary was somewhat of a weak spot in 2015, but that position returns the most talent led by rover Nate Godwin and corner Deatrick Nichols. On the other side of that, the line loses the most talent, but this is a group that rotates often and shouldn't be a huge deal. Tackle Deadrin Senat is surrounded by mostly underclassmen, though.
Things won't be easy for the Bulls out of the gates, outside of the Towson game. Their next three non-conference games will all be a challenge and that slate ends with a game against Florida State. From there, they have to open at Cincinnati as well as travel to last year's division winner Temple. If USF does the bare minimum, seven wins is still a good possibility. But beating teams like Northern Illinois and Syracuse, or even Temple, would lead to nine and possibly more wins. The Bulls have talent on their side, it's just about finishing the job against better competition, much like a year ago when they dismantled both Cincy and Temple in back-to-back games.
Either way, USF's over/under at 5 Dimes Sportsbook was at 9 in mid-June with the under at -140. Nine wins is definitely attainable, but taking the over would require them to win either the AAC title game as well as a bowl, or even both.
2016 South Florida Bulls Football Schedule
Sept. 3 vs. Towson
Sept. 10 vs. Northern Illinois
Sept. 17 at Syracuse
Sept. 24 vs. Florida State
Oct. 1 at Cincinnati
Oct. 8 vs. East Carolina
Oct. 15 vs. Connecticut
Oct. 21 at Temple
Oct. 28 vs. Navy
Nov. 12 at Memphis
Nov. 19 at SMU
Nov. 26 vs. UCF
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