The South Florida Bulls were one of the big surprises of the 2015 season. The Bulls came out of nowhere to finish 6-2 in the American. Just 1-game back of Temple for the top spot in the East.
Keep in mind they destroyed the Owls 44-23 late in the year. Part of a 8-1 run to close out the season. USF absolutely destroyed their win total of 4, going 8-4 in the regular season. They would drop to 8-5 with a 35-45 loss to Western Kentucky in the Miami Beach Bowl.
Heading into the 4th year under head coach Willie Taggert, expectations are very high. The Bulls are the favorites to win the East and have the second best odds to win the conference at +280.
Their win total for this year has been set at 8.5 games. A mark they haven’t beat since going 9-4 back in 2007.
|Date||Opponent||Spread (Est.)||Win Chance|
|Estimated Wins: TBD|
Last year the Bulls were just 2-2 in non-conference play. Beating Florida A&M and Syracuse at home. While losing at both Florida State and Maryland. This year they get the Seminoles at home, but have to go to Syracuse. The other two are both at home against Towson and Northern Illinois.
The first thing you notice when looking at the AAC portion of the schedule, is they avoid Houston out of the West. However, they do draw their 2 biggest threats in the East on the road. Those being Cincinnati and Temple. They also have to travel to Memphis and SMU.
It’s all going to come down to their ability to win away from home. Their 4 conference home games are against East Carolina, Navy, UCF and UConn. All games they will be heavily favored in.
Last year’s surprise season can be credited to the emergence of quarterback Quinton Flowers. The sophomore signal caller threw for 2,296 yards with 22 touchdowns to just 8 picks. He also had 991 yards and 12 scores on the ground. All signs point to him being even better as a junior, as he kept improving with each start last season.
Flowers will once again have the luxury of handing it off to one of the top backs in the country. Marlon Mack is coming off a sophomore campaign where he rushed for 1,381 yards. What really stands out is his staggering 6.6 yards/carry.
There’s also plenty of weapons to work with in the passing game. Flowers gets back his top target in senior Rodney Adams. They also get back junior Ryeshene Bronson and sophomore Chris Barr. Added to the mix will be NC State transfer Marquez Valdes-Scantling.
The only real question mark on this side of the ball is the offensive line. USF has to replace 3 starters from last year’s team. However, they still look to be one of the more talented units in the American. Look for juco transfer Glen Bethel to make an immediate impact in his first year.
It wasn’t just the offense that improved in 2015. The Bulls allowed just 22.9 ppg after surrendering 27.0 ppg and over 400 ypg in 2014. Even with a new defensive coordinator, this unit should be on par with last year. They are keeping the same schemes and will have 7 starters back.
The biggest losses come up front on the defensive line. USF has to replace star defensive end Eric Lee, as well as tackle James Hamilton and end Zack Bullock.
The only returning starter is junior nose tackle Deadrin Senat, who is a beast inside. Starting next to him will be promising sophomore tackle Kevin Bronson. They also get back senior tackle Derick Calloway, who missed all of last year. The starters at end are up in the air, but they have a lot of talent at the position.
At linebacker, USF gets back their leader in junior Auggie Sanchez. As a sophomore he led the team with 117 tackles and 8 tackles for loss. Also back is senior outside linebacker Nigel Harris. Senior defensive back Nate Godwin is moving down to start at linebacker. They also add in Texas transfer Cecil Cherry.
Even with the loss of talented corner Jamie Byrd, the secondary is absolutely loaded. They get back 1st-Team All-AAC corner Deatrick Nichols. He’ll start alongside sophomore Ronnie Hoggins, who impressed as true freshman. Junior Devin Abraham and red-shirt freshman Malik Dixon are expected to start at safety.
Regular Season Win Total
AAC Championship Odds
National Championship Odds
Odds Courtesy of 5Dimes
There’s always some concern when a team comes out of nowhere being able to maintain that success the following season. I don’t think that’s an issue with South Florida.
At least as long as Flowers and Mack don’t sustain a serious injury. With those two leading the offense and the talent they have on defense, this team is going to be tough to beat.
I have the Bulls finishing in a T-1st in the East with Cincinnati at 7-1. However, I do have USF losing on the road to the Bearcats, which means they lose the tiebreaker. The only other game I have them losing is at home against Florida State, giving them an overall record of 10-2.
American Athletic (East)
American Athletic Record
Win Total Prediction