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Know an ’11 Opponent: South Florida

In an effort to educate, inform, preview and most importantly, poke fun of those who dare add the Ball State Cardinals to their football schedule, OTP is proud to present the Know an ’11 Opponent series. Some things to note… this isn’t heavy lifting here with broken down statistics, game film replays, or random things like that. It’s still preseason after all, and that kind of analysis and evaluation is best saved for game week. So buckle up kiddies… time to Know an ’11 Opponent!

South Florida Bulls

If you’re like me, you look at the landscape of college football and quietly chuckle at the Big East. It’s only fitting, really, when you peruse the cast of characters that make up this “BCS Conference”. There’s perennial front-runner Pittsburgh, who was really only good for the chuckles provided by Dave Wannstedt and the inevitable late season loss that cost Pitt that next level of respect and status. There’s WVU who only provides a how to book for student conduct administrators for pretty much every other campus across the nation. Connecticut lost close to $2 million on their Fiesta Bowl trip last season, got blown out by Oklahoma, and then lost head coach Randy Edsall to his “dream job” at Maryland (which totally cannot be true). Cincinnati was the morbidly obese girl who got smoking hot through plastic surgery for a couple of years and then plumped back up the second she realized the guy she loved had his eyes on that Catholic chick up the street. Louisville, Rutgers and Syracuse have been locked in a proverbial battle of Big East mediocrity for a while now, each sneaking in a random not-so-awful season but always reverting back to the mean. So when BSU announced they were venturing to play Big East member South Florida, I was stoked. Sunny weather and a football team that didn’t really seem all that intimidating. Known mostly for their former head coach venturing somewhere between Psychoville and Crazytown on the sidelines, I was at least not extremely worried. Then I started reading and researching. Then I started to realize that a.) I don’t know as much as I thought I did and b.) it’s totally warranted to worry, which I totally started to do.

What Have You Done For Me Lately?
Nothing much, really. I mean, once they landed in the Big East in 2005, they’ve just went to 6 consecutive bowl games, won eight games the last three seasons, nine the two before those, and their .500 6-6 in ’05 was their worst since landing in a BCS automatic qualifier. Apparently, USF didn’t get the memo that when you go up in conference prestige you’re supposed to get pounded on for a few years. Last season was the first for Skip Holtz, and by all measures it was a successful one. The only losses for the Bulls came at the hands of ranked opponents Florida (#8) and West Virginia (#25) and eventual Fiesta Bowl participant Connecticut. For a program that hadn’t even played football at all until 1997, that’s a pretty impressive 14 years.

The Man Who Wears the Headset
Skip Holtz might as well change his name to DJ Khaled, because all he does is win. Back to back 9-win seasons and CUSA titles at East Carolina landed him this job at USF and if his first year is any indication it appears that success like that is on its way. I’ve always thought that coaching is really all about timing, and Holtz is hitting at just the right moment. Every other Florida school has experienced a bit of a drop off allowing him to close the gap between the other traditional powers and the Bulls. Add in the fact that USF competes in the Big East without a presumptive frontrunner or traditional powerhouse and its a recipe for success for Holtz and the Bulls. Overall, Holtz is 46-32. Of note, Holtz at USF is 4-1 off a loss, which could very possibly be the case on September 10 when the Cards venture to Tampa, as the season opener for the Bulls is at Notre Dame.

Players and Stats of Note
For USF, the lack of returning starters is actually pretty encouraging. With only five on the offense and six on the defense, it isn’t like this is a team loaded with returning starters. That’s the good news. The bad news is two-fold, really. The first piece of troubling news is that when you’re a successful program in the hotbed of Florida recruiting, replacing talented seniors is as easy as plugging in a talented sophomore or junior. It’s not like there’s a lack of fast talented athletes in the Sunshine State. The second piece of troubling news isn’t how many but rather who the Bulls return. They lose their top rusher and receiver from last season, but return the next highest 6 contributors in both categories. Defensively, the Bulls return 6 of 11, and do return their leading pass defender from ’10 in FS Jerrell Young (3 INTs) and DE Ryne Giddins had 3.5 sacks in just three starts last year.

If USF Football was a Musician…
I had to consult with OTP’s Edge for this one as he is the musical genius in this place. USF is a program that is consistently good. Not blow your skirt off awesome, but better than most. They aren’t flashy or glitzy to any degree, but there they are cranking out eight or nine wins and marching to their seemingly ever-present successful drum. Congrats, South Florida… you’re Ben Harper.

How Worried Are We?

Code Red for the Bulls. It’s not so much that USF is a juggernaut, but their talent, skill, and coaching is good enough to warrant no small amount of concern. They aren’t unbeatable, but I think it’s safe to say that if both teams show up and play their A game, it’s going to be difficult for the Cards to walk out of Raymond James Stadium a winner. However, with the right mix of Cardinal successes and USF miscues, it’s possible, and really, when playing a BCS conference team on the road and looking for only the 2nd such win in program history, possible is something I’ll settle for.

Enemy Recon
You like blogs, right? Of course you do. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t be here. Voodoo Five is your authority for all things USF related from the blogosphere as their representative in the SBNation army.  Their official athletics page can be found here.

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6 Responses

  1. I’ll be cheering for the Cardinals but I am from Tampa and have been a life long Bulls fan. This should be interesting. Go Cards!

  2. I hope that “interesting” is an adjective that jumps to mind after the game, Matt. That would be a great change of pace.

  3. USF Fan here. Great write up. Can’t wait to see the game week evaluations. Here’s to hoping Ball State goes 11-1.

  4. Though I am predicting 12-0 for the Cards, I suppose I’ll settle for 11-1

  5. Decent write up, a little condescending at first but I guess that was your attempt at humor. Outsiders of the Bulls program just look at simple stat sheet and say hey they only return X amount of starters. We rotated heavily at every level of our defense. Our Backup safeties are another pair of starters. Our LB corps returns 4 guys with significant playing time last year. Our D-line rotated 8 guys with regularity last year. We’re essentially returning 11 starting caliber players on our defense. The offense should be much improved. I’m not too familiar with Ball State as of recent. I do know they were a top 25 team a few years ago and have fallen on some hard times (6 wins in the last 2 years).

    I think USF should win but I certainly don’t underestimate you. If I did, I would be no better than the Notre Dame fans who seem to think they’re going to destroy us in South Bend. I think we’ll be 2-0 against the State of Indiana after the first 2 games. GO BULLS!

  6. As a Bulls fan, this is a great read. Will be fun to watch Ball St. play and root for you all in all of your other match ups.

    I hope the Bulls know this won’t be a gimme!

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