What started off as a promising season has become a forgettable one for South Florida.
The memory of two early-season wins over Chattanooga and Nevada has long been forgotten, only to be replaced with the sting of three straight losses that have dropped the Bulls below .500. And it's a long way up from here.
The Bulls are just getting into the bulk of their Big East schedule, starting with Temple this Sunday—and unless it can work some magic against the Owls and the rest that this conference has to offer, it can bid farewell to its dreams of making it to a bowl game in 2012.
Temple hasn't had much luck, either—even in a much smaller sample size. The Owls have only played three times in 2012, enduring two long, two-week layovers before their third and fourth games of the season. It's hard to establish any kind of a rhythm when it seems like you're never playing.
The good news is, it is a certainty that one of these teams will get on the right track this weekend.
Where: Lincoln Financial Field, Philadelphia, Pa.
When: Saturday, October 6 at 12 p.m. ET
Watch: Big East Network
Listen: 1210 AM in Philadelphia, 790 AM in South Florida
Live Stream: ESPN3
Betting Line (via OddsShark): South Florida -4 1/2
South Florida Injury Report (via USAToday.com)
- WR Chris Dunkley has been suspended indefinitely after being arrested on charges of domestic battery
- WR Sterling Griffin (knee) is out for the season
Temple Injury Report (via USAToday.com)
- OL Jaimen Newman is out with an undisclosed injury and is questionable for Saturday's game
Neither of these teams has much of a chance of being ranked this season, never mind getting a bid to a BCS bowl game. Their wins haven't been all that impressive, and in some cases, their losses haven't been to very good teams.
Consider the case of South Florida. It suffered one big loss to Florida State, which is nothing to be ashamed of, but it has also lost to Rutgers and Ball State. The loss to Rutgers doesn't look bad now that Rutgers has a No. 22 ranking to its name, but still, three straight losses does not a BCS team make.
Temple has losses to Maryland and Penn State on its record, neither of which is a ranked opponent.
In order to become a part of the BCS conversation—which, barring a miracle, isn't going to happen this season—both of these teams are going to need to go on serious runs. And for one of them, such a run isn't going to start this weekend.
What They're Saying
Most of the conversation regarding South Florida this week has been dominated by wide receiver Chris Dunkley, who made headlines for the wrong reason this weekend when he was arrested on a misdemeanor battery charge, according to The Tampa Tribune's Joey Johnston.
The team responded by suspending the Florida transfer indefinitely, which really hurts a wide receiving corps that has already lost one (Sterling Griffin) to a season-ending knee injury and lost another (D'vario Montgomery) to a hand injury in Saturday's loss to FSU, though it's worth nothing that he isn't officially listed on the team's injury report.
According to ESPN.com's Brett McMurphy, Bulls head coach Skip Holtz responded to the incident with the following statement:
Our players have an obligation to conduct themselves in an appropriate manner on and off the field. Due to the serious nature of this matter, we have suspended Chris indefinitely from all team activities.
Meanwhile, Temple is serious about getting a win this weekend in its first Big East game since being kicked out of the conference back in 2004, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer's Keith Pompey.
Pompey reports that the key will be coming through on third downs on both sides of the ball. Last time out against the Nittany Lions, Temple converted on just three of 12 third downs while allowing Penn State to convert on eight of 15.
South Florida Player to Watch
Given Dunkley's suspension, there will be even more pressure on junior wide receiver Derrick Hopkins to come up big against Temple. He's been answering the call to some extent this season, submitting two performances in which he's gained 59 yards on three receptions—but he should see his targets rise this week, now that the Bulls are getting mighty thin at wide receiver.
And ever since reeling in a touchdown catch in a season-opening victory over Chattanooga, Hopkins has yet to claim that elusive second TD of the season. There's a good chance it will happen against the Owls, who allowed 318 passing yards to Penn State the last time out.
Temple Player to Watch
During his career at Boston College, Montel Harris was the key to the Eagles' running game from the time he was a freshman on. However, his tenure at the Heights came to an abrupt halt last May, when, according to ESPN.com's Heather Dinich, he was dismissed for "a repeated violation of team rules."
BC's loss, however, was Temple's gain. The running back transferred to the Owls and was immediately eligible, and he's already given Temple a serious weapon in the backfield: Harris entered the 2012 season with 3,735 career rushing yards, according to Dinich.
His impact has been subtle in 2012, to say the least. In just two games, he's rushed for a combined 35 yards and zero touchdowns. However, given his proven capabilities during his time at BC, Saturday could be the day he turns it all around.
There isn't much to get excited about where either of these teams is concerned, but given the athleticism on South Florida's roster, their ineptitude is a bit tougher to swallow than Temple's.
According to the Inquirer's Pompey, the Bulls have been utterly unable to produce in the Big East—and in general over the last couple of seasons. This team has lost 10 of its last 13 games overall, and nine of its last 10 conference matchups.
Saturday's game, therefore, presents a perfect opportunity to start turning things around. Temple is a very beatable team, and it's a team that has been unable to get into a rhythm this season, given its long layoffs in between games over the first five or six weeks of the season.
The Owls are ripe for the picking, but it's still going to take a lot of focus and offensive efficiency in order for the Bulls to take advantage.
Prediction: Temple Wins
This is a bit bold, given the fact that neither of these teams has managed to show virtually anything to be proud of in 2012, and given the fact that the Bulls are favored by 4.5. But Temple is playing at home, and it is going to be energized as it debuts (again) in the Big East.
Plus, the Dunkley suspension is going to hurt the Bulls, and Temple has a couple of offensive weapons that are just waiting to break out.