South Florida Bulls Odds to win the College Football National Championship with Expert Betting Predictions
I have written well over 20 of these previews this week , and yet this is the first one for a team outside of the power conferences. South Florida isn't typically a team that would get that kind of attention, but there is a lot going on here. Former coach Willie Taggart leapt up to take over the raging tire fire that is Oregon. He leaves behind an elite offense, and the power to run that now lies with Charlie Strong, who left behind his own raging tire fire in Texas for Tom Herman to fix. Strong has easily the best overall offense that he has ever had as a coach - and this is a guy who had Teddy Bridgewater at Louisville. Whether he can wash off the stink of the Texas experience or not, and make the most of this opportunity, remains to be seen. And remember, there was a time when Strong was a defensive genius. This South Florida defense could certainly use one of those, because at this point the pressure is squarely on the offense to score more than the porous defense allows.
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2016 in a Nutshell
It was all in all a very strong year for the Bulls - which, of course, is why Taggart got the opportunity he did. The team won 11 games. There weren't a lot of huge wins, but they beat a ranked Navy squad and beat South Carolina in their bowl game. The losses were fine, too - to Florida State and at a pretty solid Temple team. It was good enough to put them at 19th in the final polls - a very respectable spot for a team from the AAC. Unfortunately, those two losses gave Temple the win in the division, and they beat Navy in the championship game. So, South Florida had the best record in the conference but fell just short of the big prize. There is no secret to how this team won games, either - they were fourth nationally in points scored and 86th in points allowed. They just tried to have the ball last.
Key Additions and Departures
On offense star QB Quinton Flowers is back, and so are the bulk of his favorite targets. Receiver Rodney Adams was drafted, but though he was good - a high percentage slot guy - he can be replaced. Running back Marlon Mack is gone to the NFL as well, and he'll be missed, but they have options there, too. Most concerning, they lost two all-conference linemen, including Kofi Amichia, who is now with the Packers. They have other options there, but not tested ones, and a strong offensive line is important for an offense like this. For the most part, though, Strong just needs to focus on staying out of the way of the offense and letting them do their thing. Strong and offensive coordinator Sterlin Gilbert were trying to implement this kind of offense at Texas last year, so they at least theoretically capable of letting it be what it is.
The defense is on their third defensive coordinator in three years, and that is a concern. The defense last year used a whole lot of players, with 25 seeing regular playing time. Nineteen of them are back this year, and that number should have been 21 if not for two offseason disciplinary incidents. Even a defense that wasn't great will benefit from returning experience. They also have some young guys who could make a big impact - like four-star redshirt freshman safety Craig Watt. Last year the defense struggled to deal with the fast tempo of their offense - it requires the defense to play a lot and rest little. Stamina needs to be a strong focus for the new staff.
The Bulls didn't have their best recruiting year last year, but the coaching change was a factor there. They ranked just outside of the Top 75 nationally and didn't recruit anyone better than a three-star.
South Florida Bulls Schedule Analysis
The schedule makers sure did Strong some favors. He opens with a gimme at San Jose State and then has four very winnable games before a showdown with Temple at home. Then it's three more pretty manageable games before a final four that is tough but all winnable - Cincinnati, Houston and Tulsa at home, then at UCF. There isn't a sure loss on the schedule, and at this point Strong and company have to be considered to have a better-than-even shot at winning each of the games. If Strong doesn't match the double-digit win total of Taggart last year then he is probably doing something wrong - or just being himself.
2017-18 South Florida Bulls Betting Odds and Trends
BetOnline lists odds for 35 different teams to win the national title. South Florida is not one of them. I guess that tells you all you need to know about those chances. They are the very heavy -155 favorites to win the AAC - Houston is second way back at +600. Surely even Strong can't mess that up. And Flowers gets some deserved recognition as he sits at +1600 to win the Heisman, which has him in good company tied with Jake Browning and Jalen Hurts as the eighth choice.
The Bulls were a solid team to bet on, going 8-5 ATS last year. They were 3-4 ATS in the last seven, though, so bettors caught on - or got dumber. Given the combination of the potent offense and useless defense, it's no surprise oddsmakers struggled on the totals - the team went "over" 10 times in 13 tries.
2017-18 South Florida Bulls Predictions and College Football Picks
I've joked some about Charlie Strong here, but I think he is fully good enough to lead this team to where they should go - a berth in the AAC Championship Game, hopefully a win in that game, and a decent bowl game. Anything less than 10 wins would be a disgrace, and more than that is very possible. At their best this team is at play for the playoff.
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