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South Florida Bulls

College Football

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South Florida lost its coach, but may have gotten a better one in the process with Charlie Strong coming over from Texas. The Bulls surprised last season en route to 11 wins with the final one coming against South Carolina in the Birmingham Bowl. The offense was one of the best (43.8 points per game), while the defense was on the other end of the spectrum (31.6). The hope is that Strong can turn that defense over and make this team undefeated in regular season.

Doing that is possible because quarterback Quinton Flowers is still there after totaling 42 touchdowns a year ago (24 passing, 18 rushing) to go with 1,530 rushing yards. He even has decent odds (+4000 at 5Dimes Sportsbook) to win the Heisman, and it’s not that big of a long shot given the possibility of going undefeated. There are a couple questions on the line, but with three starters back, the Bulls should be just fine. New coordinator Sterlin Gilbert expects to run a faster tempo so that will also make things interesting with D’Ernest Johnson (543 yards, 8 TDs) and Darius Tice taking over as the lead running backs. Flowers has to find a new go-to target with Tyre McCants (384 yards, 4 TDs) and Marquez Valdes-Scantling (415 yards, 5 TDs) the top choices to go with tight ends Mitchell Wilcox and Elkanah Dillon.

But we already knew the offense was lethal, so projecting this team ahead all depends on what the defense can do. In their two losses last season, the Bulls gave up 55 points to FSU and 46 to Temple. The good news is that Strong has nine returning starters to work with so the experience is there even if they gave up an enormous 285 passing yards per game. Once again, the unit will be led by the front seven with linebacker Auggie Sanchez the best of the bunch along with tackle Deadrin Senat. The secondary lost some playmakers, but will be set with seniors at corner and safety. If this group doesn't improve, many will start to question just how good Strong is, especially as a defensive coach.

The schedule sets up perfectly for USF, especially without Florida State on the schedule this time around. The toughest tests in non-conference play come against San Jose State and Illinois. Outside of the season finale at UCF, all of their road games are against some of the worst teams in the AAC, so that makes things even easier with five home games in conference play.

If the defense becomes mediocre (which is better than last year), having Flowers on offense may be enough to go undefeated in the regular season before getting to face a team like Navy, Memphis or Houston in the AAC final. Considering USF finished at 11-2 a year ago, it’s not crazy to think it could get 12 or even 13 wins with Strong as head coach.


2017 South Florida Bulls Football Schedule

Aug. 26 at San Jose State
Sept. 2 vs. Stony Brook
Sept. 9 at Connecticut
Sept. 15 vs. Illinois

Sept. 21 vs. Temple
Sept. 30 at East Carolina
Oct. 14 vs. Massachusetts

Oct. 21 at Tulane
Oct. 28 vs. Cincinnati
Nov. 4 vs. Houston
Nov. 18 vs. Tulsa
Nov. 24 at UCF

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