2011 South Florida Bulls Football Predictions and Big East Futures Odds
by Alan Matthews - 8/10/2011
The South Florida football program is a bit maddening. For the past handful of years, the Bulls have always been considered a Big East contender, but something always seems to get in their way – usually themselves. This is one of those programs that wins a game or two each year that it probably shouldn’t (at Miami last year, FSU the year before) and loses one it shouldn’t (Syracuse at home last year). Thus, USF usually ends up in some second-tier bowl because its fans don’t travel well. It will probably be more of the same this year as the Big East media picked USF to finish third in the conference.
Skip Holtz arrived from Connecticut to replace the ousted Jim Leavitt last year and he had a solid season, leading the Bulls to an 8-5 record, including a win over Clemson in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. There’s no question that USF did seem to improve at the end of last season. And Holtz and his staff should have an advantage over Big East contenders West Virginia and Pittsburgh: continuity. Holtz spent his first year getting to know his players, but now they can simply maximize their talent because the players know his system. Both WVU and Pitt have brought in new head coaches – two in the Panthers’ case. Meanwhile, every member of USF’s staff is back from last year.
The key to the offense is simple: inconsistent QB B.J. Daniels. He shows signs of being a dual-threat star (think of new FSU starter E.J. Manuel, and not just because their names are similar), but he also has had some questionable decisions and he has regressed from his freshman year. Last season Daniels completed 58.4 percent of his passes for 1,685 yards, 11 TDs and 13 interceptions. Holtz’s system restricted his freedom a bit. But no quarterback in the Big East conference has more experience than Daniels, who has started 22 games.
In fairness to Daniels, he had to adjust to a third offensive coordinator last year and had to deal with a receiving corps that was beset with injuries and lost two of its top three pass catchers, including A.J. Love, who had 56 catches two seasons ago but missed last year with a torn ACL. Love is back as is Sterling Griffin, who missed last year with an ankle injury. At running back, look for a mix of Darrell Scott, a former top recruit in the nation who transferred from Colorado, and holdover Demetris Murray (542 yards rushing in 2010). The line has to replace three starters. Overall four starters are back on this unit.
This unit lost six starters, including three on the line and none more important than All-Big East performer Terrell McClain. The staff expects a breakout season from sophomore end Ryan Giddins, who is the highest-rated recruit ever to commit to USF. He had 3.5 sacks last year. Linebacker DeDe Lattimore will likely be the star of the defense. He had a great 2010 season, finishing second on the team with 69 tackles, including 6.5 for loss, in being named a Freshman All-American. In the secondary, three starters are back.
2011 South Florida Bulls Football Schedule Analysis
USF opens at Notre Dame, where Holtz was an assistant for eight years and where his father coached Notre Dame to its last national title (1988) during his tenure there. If the Bulls take that one, they should open 4-0 as they will be favored in home games vs. Ball State, Florida A&M and UTEP. Then USF is at Pittsburgh on a short week – but the Panthers also will have played just a few days earlier and against Notre Dame. The Bulls then get more than two weeks off before visiting UConn, where it shouldn’t be too cold yet on Oct. 15. USF has never been a good cold-weather team. Next follows a home game vs. Cincinnati and road games at Rutgers and Syracuse (at least the Bulls visit NY in the winter for a dome game). I expect USF to be 6-3 entering a three-game homestand to close the season vs. Miami (Fla.), Louisville and West Virginia.
2011 South Florida Bulls BCS and Big East Futures Odds
USF’s ‘over/under’ win total for the regular season is 8 at Bodog with its odds to win the Big East at 5/2 (second behind West Virginia). South Florida’s odds on WagerWeb to win the national title is +10000.
2011 South Florida Bulls Football Predictions
It’s time for this team to take the next step. The Bulls played in their sixth consecutive bowl game and are now one of four programs to win their last three postseason appearances. But they aren’t exactly playing in top-flight bowls. I don’t think they will this year. More than eight wins is unrealistic, so I would go with ‘under’ as 7-5 looks about right to me. If Daniels becomes a superstar, USF might contend for the Big East title because in that weak conference a 5-2 record is probably good enough to win it (it was last year). And that WVU game in Tampa to end the year could well be for the conference crown.
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