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The South Florida Bulls celebrate their win over the UCF Knights at Raymond James Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Jason Behnken / Getty Images)

Football

The American-Statesman’s Top 25 countdown: No. 18 South Florida

Charlie Strong's back in Florida and brought five Texas coaches with him. Will his USF tenure be more Texas or Louisville?

Posted July 12th, 2017

Sure, it’s July. But it’s never too early to talk college football. Here’s your daily fix — our countdown of the preseason Top 25, as selected by the American-Statesman sports staff. Last year’s CFP semifinalists were ranked Nos. 1, 2, 7 and 17 on our 2016 list.

Today’s team: No. 18 South Florida (Related coverage: USF’s Quinton Flowers has gained a lot from his friendship with Teddy Bridgewater)

Best-case scenario: Charlie Strong proves it just wasn’t a good fit at Texas. With plenty of talent remaining from a team that finished 19th in the final AP poll, Strong has a chance to find Louisville-like success at his new job.

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Worst-case scenario: What cursed Strong at Texas also hexes him at South Florida. The Bulls recorded double-digit wins for the first time in school history last year, but a few slip-ups may remind fans of the team’s 14-34 record from 2011-14.

The key game: Sept. 21, Temple. The two best teams in the American Athletic Conference’s East division last year, South Florida and Temple both saw their coaches leave in the off-season. (Ex-Temple coach Matt Rhule is now at Baylor). South Florida will prepare for the showdown with games against San Jose State, Stony Brook, UConn and Illinois, four teams that went a combined 15-32 in 2016.

INSIDE THE BULLS

Coach: Charlie Strong (first year, 53-37 overall at Louisville and Texas)

2016: 11-2, 7-1 in the AAC (beat South Carolina 46-39 in the Birmingham Bowl)

Returning starters: 7 offense, 9 defense

Goodbye: Head coach Willie Taggart (Oregon), RB Marlon Mack (Colts, 4th round)

Spring cleaning: Three Bulls — Mack (Colts), receiver Rodney Adams (Vikings) and center Kofi Amichia (Packers) — were drafted this spring. … USF’s 2017 recruiting class checked in at No. 76 on 247Sports’ composite ranking. The Bulls were 66th in 2016. … Elijah Mack led South Florida with his 60 rushing yards in the team’s spring game. He is not related to Marlon Mack, the school’s all-time leading rusher.

TAMPA, FL – NOVEMBER 26: Wide receiver Rodney Adams #87 congratulates quarterback Quinton Flowers #9 of the South Florida Bulls after Flowers ran for a touchdown against the UCF Knights during the third quarter at Raymond James Stadium on November 26, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Jason Behnken / Getty Images)

RETURNING LEADERS

Passing: Quinton Flowers, 207-331-2,812, 24/7

Rushing: QB Quinton Flowers, 198-1,530-18 (1st)

Receiving: D’Ernest Johnson, 28-293-5 (T-2nd); Tyre McCants, 25-384-4 (4th)

Tackles: LB Auggie Sanchez, 120 (1st)

Sacks: DT Bruce Hector, 6 (T-1st); LB Auggie Sanchez, 6 (T-1st)

RETURNING ALL-CONFERENCE PLAYERS (6)

Offense: QB Quinton Flowers (1st team, offensive player of the year), TE Mitchell Wilcox (2nd), RS D’Ernest Johnson (2nd)

Defense: DT Deadrin Senat (2nd), LB Auggie Sanchez (2nd), CB Deatrick Nichols (2nd)

Texas Longhorns coach Charlie Strong makes his way off the field to the locker room to prepare to play against Kansas Jayhawks before kick off in the NCAA college football game at Memorial Stadium in Lawrence, Kan. Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014. (RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN- STATESMAN)

SOUTH FLORIDA: FYI

From Longhorns to Bulls: Two weeks after getting fired at Texas, Strong was hired by a South Florida program that had just lost Taggart to Oregon. Taggart went 24-25 in his four years, 18-7 in his final two. Former UT assistants Brian Jean-Mary (defensive coordinator), Sterlin Gilbert (offensive coordinator), Matt Mattox (offensive line) and Charlie Williams (wide receivers) followed Strong to Tampa, as did strength and conditioning coach Pat Moorer.

Records in sight: As a junior last year, Flowers became the first USF player to exceed 2,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards. A longshot contender for the Heisman, Flowers is 1,015 rushing yards and 3,894 passing yards shy of breaking USF’s all-time records.

Team turnover: South Florida allowed 196.5 rushing yards and 285.5 passing yards per game last season, which means the Bulls ranked lower than Texas in both statistical categories. Only 17 FBS-level teams, however, forced more turnovers than USF. In addition to those 26 turnovers, the South Florida defense scored three touchdowns.

South Florida's schedule

DATEOPPONENTLAST YR'S RESULT (IF PLAYED)
Aug. 26at San Jose State
Sept. 2Stony Brook
Sept. 9at UConn*W, 42-27
Sept. 15Illinois
Sept. 21Temple*L, 46-30
Sept. 30at East Carolina*W, 38-22
Oct. 14UMass
Oct. 21at Tulane*
Oct. 28Cincinnati*W, 45-20
Nov. 4Houston*
Nov. 16Tulsa*
Nov. 24at Central Florida*W, 48-31
* AAC game

The last 5 years

YEARW-L (CONF.)RANKINGBOWL GAME
TOTAL28-34 (19-20)1-1 in bowls
20123-9 (1-6)NR/NRNo bowl
20132-10 (2-6)NR/NRNo bowl
20144-8 (3-5)NR/NRNo bowl
20158-5 (6-2)NR/NRL Miami Beach
201611-2 (7-1)NR/19thW Birmingham

Note: Ranks are that year’s preseason/final ranking

 

2016 NATIONAL STAT RANKS

Scoring: 4th (43.8 ppg)

Points allowed: 92nd (31.6 ppg)

Passing: 70th (226.2 ypg)

Rushing: 5th (285.3 ypg)

Total off.: 11th (511.5 ypg)

Total def.: 120th (482.0 ypg)

OUR TOP 25 SO FAR

No. 25: Boise State

No. 24: Oregon

No. 23: Tennessee

No. 22: Texas

No. 21: Kansas State

No. 20: Miami

No. 19: West Virginia

No. 18: South Florida

No. 17: Coming Thursday. Want a hint? This school’s marching band is known as the Pride of the Sunshine.

BY CONFERENCE

3 schools:

Big 12 (19-West Virginia, 21-Kansas State, 22-Texas)

1 school:

AAC (18-South Florida)

ACC (20-Miami)

Mountain West (25-Boise State)

Pac-12 (24-Oregon);

SEC (23-Tennessee)

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