For the first time since 2008, the University of South Florida’s football team is ranked in the preseason top-25.
The Bulls come in at number 21 in the coaches’ preseason poll, matching their highest ever ranking in that poll. This follows a strong 2016 season which saw the team set a new wins record at 11-2, following a victory over the University of South Carolina in the Birmingham Bowl and the hiring of Charlie Strong as the new head coach after former coach Willie Taggart left to take the head coaching position with the University of Oregon.
The USF ranking gives the American Athletic Conference its only representative in the coaches’ top-25, which fits with the preseason projections that have the Bulls winning the conference title. It will not be an easy road, as other talented AAC teams received votes, including Temple University, the University of Houston and the University of Tulsa. These games will be somewhat easier as the Bulls will host all three teams this season, instead of having to face a tough opponent on the road. The Bulls do not seem to be flying under the radar this year, with both ESPN and CBS planning to air games for them.
The team experienced many individual successes as well, setting nearly 40 team and individual records in 2016, including team records for total yards (6,650), rushing yards (3,714), touchdowns (77) and scoring (569).
Junior quarterback Quinton Flowers was named the American Conference Offensive Player of the Year and led a school-record 10 players named to the all-conference team. Of these 10 players, six will return in 2017, which is why USF is rated so highly.
Flowers in particular is gaining some notoriety, having recently been profiled by ESPN and being watch listed for four different postseason awards, giving the Bulls a talented and experienced leader at the sport’s most important position.
The Bulls will begin their season on Saturday, Aug. 26 in San Jose, Calif. where they will take on San Jose State University. The Spartans, who play in the Mountain West Conference, finished the 2016 season with a 4-8 record, and should be a good warmup for the Bulls.
Their home opener is on Saturday, Sept. 2 against Stony Brook University. The Seawolves play in the Division-I Football Championship Subdivision, the next tier down from where the Bulls play in the D-I Football Bowl Subdivision.
These two games should set USF up for success in the season and solidify the team for the season ahead.