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Sports Network USF Preview (and rest of Big East linked in article)


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NCAA Football Preview - South Florida Bulls

By Pat Taggart, Associate College Football Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - 2007 SEASON IN REVIEW: The rise of the South Florida Bulls in 2007 served as one of the best stories of the college football season. After all, no one would have believed it was possible that the team would climb to second in the national rankings.

The Bulls first caught the attention of fans and analysts everywhere when it beat Auburn on the road in week two. Then, just three weeks later, South Florida stunned conference foe and national powerhouse West Virginia. The Bulls opened the season with six consecutive wins before finally falling to Rutgers. Unfortunately, that setback seemed to destroy the confidence of the football team, as it went on to lose the next two outings to UConn and Cincinnati by narrow margins. Fortunately, head coach Jim Leavitt was able to salvage the season with victories in the final three regular season contests. At 9-3, the Bulls earned a bid to the Sun Bowl to face Oregon, and the result of that clash was truly ugly. A horrendous defensive showing resulted in a 56-21 setback.

Looking back, the 2007 campaign has to be considered a success, as college football fans were forced to take the Bulls seriously for once. However, Leavitt knows that his squad let a golden opportunity slip away.

2008 ANALYSIS:

OFFENSE: The Bulls are thrilled to have a big-time quarterback in the fold in Matt Grothe, who is back after an outstanding sophomore campaign. Grothe is a dual threat who passed for 2,670 yards and 14 touchdowns while rushing for 872 yards and 10 scores. Unfortunately, he tossed 14 interceptions and must make better decisions if the Bulls are going to challenge for the conference title.

The player to keep an eye on is Mike Ford, who was sensational as a true freshman in 2007. Ford had 12 touchdowns and a few big games down the stretch, and it will be interesting to see how he responds as he heads into a season as the top tailback.

Carlton Mitchell made 37 catches last season for 537 yards as a freshman and figures to be even better this season. He is joined on the outside by Taurus Johnson, who is poised for a breakout campaign.

With four starting offensive linemen in the fold as well as a solid tight end, the Bulls may be able to improve on their 21st place national finish in scoring offense.

DEFENSE: The most recognizable player on the defensive side of the ball for South Florida is rush end George Selvie, who registered 14.5 sacks last season to rank among the national leaders. The fact that Selvie was just a sophomore in 2007 is scary, as he has the ability to completely dominate a game. He also made 31.5 tackles for loss last season to lead the nation en route to being a First Team All-American.

At the linebacker position, Tyrone McKenzie leads the pack. He made 121 tackles last season to lead the team and will be a mainstay once again. In the defensive backfield, significant losses leave holes to be filled. Standout corners Mike Jenkins and Trae Williams are gone, and replacing the nation's top corner duo is a daunting task. Fortunately, safeties Nate Allen and Carlton Williams are still in place.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Delbert Alvarado is the punter and placekicker for the Bulls. He averaged 41.6 yards per punt in 2007 and finished strong on field goals after a shaky start. Coach Leavitt has to be satisfied with Alvarado, but at the same time he knows improvement is possible.

OUTLOOK: According to Leavitt, "No one looks at the SEC and thinks anyone is going to go undefeated. They say the same about the Big East. I think the league is stronger than it was last year."

While the non-conference slate is not exactly treacherous, one of the premiere matchups in mid-September will pit the Bulls against the Kansas Jayhawks in Tampa. USF definitely has the ability to go on an extensive winning streak, heading into the season-finale at West Virginia.

The Bulls are clearly one of the better teams in the conference, but they may not be able to contend with the Mountaineers this time around. They will take on WVU in the last game of the regular season and the conference crown could be on the line in Morgantown. Winning that game won't come easy, but even a loss there, still leaves the Bulls with yet another stellar campaign.

08/12 17:05:45 ET

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The eer's winning a high profile game in Morgantown????? This site must forget the soft White blows under pressure! They have blew the last two high profile games in Morgantown. Lost to us in 06 and PITT in 07 and then to us again in 08.... ;)

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if WVU is as good as people say they will be, that will be a difficult game for us to win

for what it is worth, I don't think they well be.

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