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Mailbag: Another Big East Contender?


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http://collegefootball.rivals.com/content.asp?CID=708113

Olin Buchanan

Rivals.com College Football Senior Writer

There was a time when seven victories and a win in a bowl game would have been cause for celebration in Tallahassee.

Now, it's cause for concern.

An old-timer can remember back to the 1970s when Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, had a superior football program to the University of Miami.

It wasn't that long ago that the University of Florida's football program was known as a national underachiever rather than a national champion.

But within the last decade Florida State, Miami (Florida, that is) and the University of Florida have all won national championships. The state of Florida is a vast ocean of high school football talent, and the right college coach can quickly build powerful programs that can win national titles.

Bobby Bowden did it at Florida State. Howard Schnellenberger did at Miami and Steve Spurrier did it at Florida.

So can Jim Leavitt do it at South Florida?

It might be just a matter of time. Perhaps the time has come for the Bulls.

Not quite yet

As a college football fan I get excited for programs that are in their infancy and have a chance for success. The Bulls of South Florida have only been around 10 years or so, and with all the excitement down there over the last couple of years, don't you think they have an outside shot of the winning the whole thing? It all starts with a tough road game at Auburn.

 Roger in Montgomery, Ala.

- - - -

There is no question that coach Jim Leavitt has done a tremendous job building South Florida into a top 25-caliber program. Matt Grothe is an exciting quarterback, and the addition of highly touted freshman running back Mike Ford should make the Bulls even better than last season's nine-win team.

But it's an enormous leap from nine wins to the national championship, especially for a team that lost to Kansas and Cincinnati and was blown out by Louisville.

Even though South Florida upset West Virginia last season, the Mountaineers and Louisville are still the class of the Big East. The belief here is that South Florida will challenge Rutgers for third place in the conference, and have a shot at equaling or bettering last season's victory total.

If the Bulls get through September without a loss (they will face Auburn and West Virginia) they will be in the national championship discussion. But I don't think they're ready to go that far.

Not yet, anyway.

Amazing the amount of exposure that win over WVU has brought us.

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If the Bulls get through September without a loss (they will face Auburn and West Virginia) they will be in the national championship discussion.

Everyone read that again.

Go ahead. Read it a third time.

My heart has stopped beating.  I can barely breathe.

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Here is another one:

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/sports/other/sfl-flsp_usf31nbaug31,0,3481755.story

Bulls fortunes tied to Grothe

A freshman last year, QB led USF to a bowl victory

By Craig Barnes | South Florida Sun-Sentinel

August 31, 2007

Matt Grothe thought being South Florida's quarterback in 2006 was "the coolest thing that I've ever done," but he knows more will be expected of him and the Bulls in 2007.

Grothe's 3,198 yards of total offense (2,576 yards passing and 622 yards rushing), nine rushing touchdowns and 63.7 completion percentage were school records for a freshman and good enough to earn him Big East Rookie of the Year honors.

The redshirt from Lake Gibson led the Bulls to a 9-4 finish, including a 37-20 win at North Carolina, a 24-19 win at West Virginia and a 24-7 win over East Carolina in the Papajohns.com Bowl.

"We are more in the spotlight than ever," Grothe said, "but we are still the forgotten team in Florida. It is easy to overlook us when you consider the traditions of Florida, Florida State and Miami."

Grothe will be helped by a group of experienced receivers led by Taurus Johnson, running backs led by Benjamin Williams and an offensive line led by tackle Walter Walker of Plantation.

"I've heard about the sophomore jinx, but I don't buy into it," Grothe said. "Yes, I feel pressure to manage games and make big plays, but no, I don't feel like I have to do it alone. I know defenses will be better prepared for what I do, and I have to throw fewer interceptions [14 in 2006]."

It won't be easy. The Bulls play at Auburn and against North Carolina and West Virginia in their first four games, compelling Grothe to say "the start of the schedule could make or break us."

Coach Jim Leavitt views the schedule in another way.

"We could have a good team, maybe better than last year, but it is possible that our record won't reflect it," said Leavitt, who is 70-43 in 10 years as coach.

Leavitt said he never doubted Grothe, who completed 202 of 317 passes with 15 touchdowns.

"He was meant to be a quarterback since birth," Leavitt said. "He is more heady than the normal guy, and he grew into the position. He understands what should happen, and he does his part to make it happen. He had a great year in 2006, but he understands there is a lot of room to get better."

Grothe was particularly effective in come-from-behind and fourth-quarter situations.

"I like to play in the fourth quarter because the stakes are higher," Grothe said. "If you have a game won, you can lose it there. If you're losing but close enough to make a run, you can win it."

Grothe thinks his success was helped by the Bulls' offense being similar to the one he ran in high school. He didn't have to make a lot of adjustments and was comfortable. But it didn't help when starter Pat Julmiste of Miramar was injured in the first game against McNeese State.

"I was scared out of my mind for a first few plays," Grothe said. "Then I settled down, the speed of the game seemed more normal and everything went good the rest of the year."

Grothe said last year's success motivated players to work hard in the offseason to meet the challenge of 2007.

"Our offense will be more balanced," Grothe said, "and our defense will be improved. If things go right, we can be better than last year. In the Big East, we know that we will either get better or get left behind. We understand that the better you do, the better you are expected to do."

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If the Bulls get through September without a loss (they will face Auburn and West Virginia) they will be in the national championship discussion.

Everyone read that again.

Go ahead. Read it a third time.

My heart has stopped beating.  I can barely breathe.

Yeah, that was my favorite line from the article.

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