Tampa, FL—The 2008 South Florida Bulls are 3-0 after a shocking 37-34 win over No. 13/No. 11 Kansas. The Bulls travel to FIU this weekend, where they are three-touchdown favorites. After FIU, it’s off to NC State and then a home date with Pittsburgh.
Many remember the Bulls’ 2007 run to 6-0 and an eventual No. 2 ranking. That sudden rise to prominence quickly ended with the string of three losses that followed.
Today’s Bulls are undeniably positioned to move higher than their current No. 12/No. 16 ranks in the polls. Like last year, they’ve already upset one Top 25 opponent—Kansas. This year however, with a weaker Big East, they may not face another ranked team for more than a month—if at all.
The table is set. The Bulls are positioned to win their first Big East Championship. Certainly it is still early, but seeing the struggles thus far of the rest of the Big East, it won’t be the bruising conference it was over the last few years.
The Bulls should be favored in each of their remaining home games (Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Rutgers, and UConn). On the road, the Bulls face Louisville, Cincinnati, and West Virginia.
In previous years, those road games were the toughest games on the schedule—in fact, USF has never won at Louisville or at Cincinnati. But this year could be different.
Along with the Bulls, most every team manages to get better week to week, and therefore predicting anything outside of two to three weeks down the schedule is foolish. Anything can happen.
For the Bulls to keep the upper hand and stay in first place in the Big East, they are going to have to shore up some areas. Work needs to done on special teams and in the defensive secondary. The Bulls showed a weakness early in the season in kick return defense and kicking. Both areas seem to be headed in the right direction now.
Specifically, in the kicking game, freshman Maikon Bonani became a household name in Tampa after going three for four on field goals against Kansas, including the game-winner with two seconds remaining. But he is a true freshman—consistency will be the key.
Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing picked apart the Bulls secondary. Granted, Reesing is one of the best passers the Bulls will face this year. Still, with the exception of the third quarter, Reesing had little trouble moving the ball against the Bulls—even without much of a running game to balance the KU offense.
How much the Bulls improve in these areas will dictate their final record.
Add one more thing: health. Star running back Mike Ford was injured in the first game. He completely missed the second game and had one carry in the third game before exiting in pain. Fellow back Benjamin Williams is also sidelined with an injury.
Should the Bulls get these guys healthy and improve on the areas noted, a first-ever Big East Championship and associated BCS bid is in reach. Have a stumble like last year, and the door is opened for the rest of the Big East field.