South Florida Bulls
South Florida was favored to win the AAC last year, but UCF happened and the Knights ended up stealing the AAC title Game out of the East. The Bulls still managed an impressive 10-2 record in Charlie Strong’s first season even if it was partly a product of Schedule. They’ll try and match that number this year, but it won’t be easy without do-it-all quarterback Quinton Flowers, who had 31 total touchdowns and 972 rushing yards. Yet even with a new quarterback, USF’s over/under was set at 8.5 wins (at 5Dimes Sportsbook) with +960 odds to win the AAC, so it’s still getting respect under Strong.
The quarterback competition was iffy at best in the spring as Brett Kean and Chris Oladokun battled, with neither taking a foot forward. It got even more interesting in June when former Alabama quarterback Blake Barnett transferred in, clearly showing Strong didn’t have high hopes for the other two guys. Either way, quarterback will be a question entering fall and that could lead to much worse numbers for the offense after averaging 38.3 points per Game. The line returns three starters, but a new running back comes in behind them with Elijah MACk (three carries) and Florida transfer Jordan Cronkrite. There’s at least experienced talent at wide receiver with Tyre McCants (19.9 yards per catch) a downfield threat to go with Darnell Salomon (465 yards) and tight end Mitchell Wilcox. Replacing Flowers will be the opposite of easy for this offense.
There are similar issues on defense where a lot of guys are gone with only five starters returning. The defense is supposed to be a strong suit under Strong and he has a big task of getting them near the 23.5 points per Game allowed again. A lot of players had to change positions to fill in for guys that left with Nico Sawtelle manning middle linebacker and Khalid McGee moving from safety to the other linebacker spot. The secondary is at least filled with seniors and three returning starters so there is hope that unit can improve, although less of a pass rush could be an issue. Greg Reaves is the lone returning starter on the line and will have a big role of getting to the quarterback.
Over 8.5 wins is definitely attainable for USF, but probably more difficult than a year ago, especially with Georgia Tech in non-Conference play. Even the Game against Illinois won’t be a freebie as they could deal with early questions at quarterback. Winning the East division will require beating UCF this time around and then winning at Houston, a team it lost to at home last year. The Bulls may be favored in every other remaining Game, although that could change with the late trip to Temple. Taking the over on USF is a bit of gamble with the question at quarterback and more of the same on the defensive side. This team has a lot of turnover and it’s unknown if it can deal with it. The Bulls should still be good, but likely not at the same level as a year ago.
2018 South Florida Bulls Football Schedule
Sept. 1 vs. Elon
Sept. 8 vs. Georgia Tech
Sept. 15 vs. Illinois (Soldier Field, Chicago)
Sept. 22 vs. East Carolina
Oct. 6 at Massachusetts
Oct. 12 at Tulsa
Oct. 20 vs. Connecticut
Oct. 27 at Houston
Nov. 3 vs. Tulane
Nov. 10 at Cincinnati
Nov. 17 at Temple
Nov. 23 vs. UCF