The South Florida Bulls
While their final tally was a less than stellar 5-7 total and an even less impressive 2-6 record in conference play, the Bulls very easily could have won the Big East this past season. Hopes were high in Tampa when the Bulls started 4-0, including a victory in South Bend over Notre Dame. Things came unraveled from there, losing seven of their final eight games to finish the season. Their one win during that stretch? You guessed it, a twenty point victory over the reeling Syracuse Orange in the Dome.
But don’t let the Bulls’ record fool you. Aside from a blowout in Pittsburgh, every loss South Florida suffered were by ten points or less, with four of the losses being a field goal difference. Syracuse fans are all too familiar with quarterback BJ Daniels, who it feels like has been playing college football for a decade. Last season in the Dome he hurt the Orange from every angle, leading both teams in rushing, and putting up comparable passing numbers to Ryan Nassib throughout the game. South Florida Head Coach Skip Holtz has been trying to make Daniels more of a pocket presence, so if the Orange are going to win this game they are going to have to pressure Daniels in to some bad throws, forcing some turnovers. Daniels still scrambles a lot, but he will absolutely force some throws rather than taking hits if the Orange can pressure him. Receiver Sterling Griffin was Daniels’ main target last season, and should have improved numbers this season as well.
Defensively the Bulls are led by linebacker Devekeyan “DeDe” Lattimore, who had 94 tackles last season, with 13 of them being for a loss. Linebacker Mike Lanaris also returns for the Bulls, which will absolutely be a difficult duo up the middle for the Syracuse running backs.
This game is going to be a tough game for the Orange, and they are going to have to play very well in order to win this one on the road. South Florida is a lot better than their record indicated last season, and they absolutely will contend for a Big East Championship.