A look at USF’s 2017 opponents

By John Black, Correspondent
On August 24, 2017


Former Bucs and Bears coach Lovie Smith brings his Illinois Fighting Illini to Raymond James Stadium on Sept. 15. SPECIAL TO THE ORACLE

San Jose State University

Saturday, Aug. 26, 7:30 p.m. San Jose, California, CBS Sports Network

The Bulls open their 2017 campaign in California Saturday. USF will take on the San Jose State Spartans in the two programs’ first ever matchup. After going 4-8 in 2016, the Spartans have gone in a completely new direction, hiring a first-time head coach in Brent Brennan. The Spartans haven’t found a starter at quarterback and that could hinder USF in its preparation, but also help due to the quarterback’s inexperience. San Joses defense, on the other hand, will be led by returning senior cornerback Andre Chachere. South Florida’s first legitimate Heisman candidate Quinton Flowers will be facing a tough opponent in Chachere. He finished fourth in the nation in passes defended per game, was voted First Team All Mountain West Conference, and team MVP. Despite Chachere’s experience, the rest of the San Jose roster is full of unproven talent. The Spartans finished 2016 with the 122nd-ranked rushing defense (246 YPG), which opens the door for the Bulls’ explosive offense.

Stony Brook University

Saturday, Sept. 2, 4 p.m., Raymond James Stadium, Tampa

The Bulls will welcome the Stony Brook Seawolves to Raymond James Stadium in their home opener. An unknown team from NCAA Division I FCS, Stony Brook ended the 2016 season 5-6 and tied for seventh in the Colonial Athletic Association. The Seawolves will be led by third-team All-CAA running back and team captain Stacey Bedell. In 2016, Bedell ran for just under 700 yards, with 10 TDs. Coach Charlie Strong’s defense will look to improve over last year, when it finished 84th in total rush defense. Senior leaders Auggie Sanchez, Deatrick Nichols and Deadrin Senat will be looking to show USF has a as a top-tier defense. 

UConn

Saturday, Sept. 9, noon, Hartford, Connecticut, ESPNNEWS

Last year, when USF and UConn faced off in Tampa, the Bulls were able to take care of the Huskies on their way to a 42-27 victory. That loss was only one of UConn’s nine in 2016. After a dismal season, the Huskies rehired Randy Edsall, who served as Huskies coach from 1999-2010. At this point in the beginning of the season, it’s unclear who UConn’s biggest threat will be. Edsall recently named juco transfer David Pindell as the Week 1 starter. Pindell played at Lackawana College in 2016 and threw for over 2,400 yards with 31 TDs. He also ran for over 450 yards. 

Illinois

Friday, Sept. 15, 7 p.m., Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, ESPN

This is South Florida’s only notable out of conference game on the 2017 slate, and it is hardly notable. The Bulls face their only Power 5 team in the Illinois Fighting Illini. Illinois also finished the 2016 season 3-9, putting it sixth in the Big Ten West. Second-year coach Lovie Smith is hoping to improve upon an unfortunate first year, but the Fighting Illini are still in the rebuilding stages. Smith will likely find his return to Raymond James Stadium as unrewarding as his time as the Bucs coach. 

Temple 

Thursday, Sept. 21, 8 p.m., Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, ESPN

The Bulls most disappointing loss last year came in Week 8 in Philadelphia as USF fell 46-30 against the Temple Owls. In one of the last drives of the game, quarterback Quinton Flowers suffered an injury that kept the Heisman hopeful from leading a South Florida comeback. Although this is not the same Temple team the Bulls faced in 2016, (the Owls have a new head coach, new quarterback, and lost defensive end Haason Riddick in the first round of the NFL Draft) look forward to Flowers and the rest of the Bulls coming out ready to redeem themselves.

East Carolina

Saturday, Sept. 30, Greenville, North Carolina

Last year’s homecoming opponent, the East Carolina Pirates host South Florida in the Bulls’ sixth game of the year. The Bulls walked away with a 16-point victory (38-22) in 2016 and plan on repeating the results in 2017. Newly named ECU starting quarterback Gardner Minshew hopes to improve upon his two starts from 2016 where he lost to both Navy and Temple. In Gardner’s time against USF last year, he threw one touchdown and one interception. 

UMass

Saturday, Oct. 14, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa

The Massachusetts Minutemen finished 2-10 in only the program’s fourth year in Division I FBS. Their only two wins came against Florida International University and FCS opponent Wagner College. Coming off their first bye week, the Bulls look to take an easy homecoming victory against the independent Minutemen in their final out of conference game of the year.

Tulane

Saturday, Oct. 21, New Orleans 

This will be the two programs first time meeting as American Athletic Conference opponents. Coming off a 4-8 campaign in 2016, Tulane coach Willie Fritz wants to change the culture in New Orleans from a losing one to a winning one. Facing an experienced defense, the Bulls’ offense hopes to remain explosive at this point in the season. The Tulane Green Wave offense will be lead by junior college transfer Jonathan Banks. As a dual-threat quarterback, Banks will hope to be able to confuse the South Florida defense with his athleticism and pocket presence. However, by the eighth game of the season, Strong should have his defense at the top of the ranks, ready to stop any opponent.

Cincinnati

Saturday, Oct. 28, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida

The Cincinnati Bearcats will come to Tampa looking to redeem themselves from last year’s loss. The Bulls took home a 25-point victory (45-20). Flowers ran for 74 yards and two touchdowns against the Bearcats, while running back D’Ernest Johnson also ran for one touchdown. Last year’s win was arguably USF’s best defensive effort of the 2016 season (7 tackles for loss and 3 interceptions). 

Houston

Saturday, Nov. 4, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa

The Houston Cougars are easily the toughest team South Florida will face in the 2017 season. However, Houston will be entering its first season under unproven new coach Major Applewhite after the departure of Tom Herman. Led by defensive tackle Ed Oliver, the Cougars ended the 2016 season as the fourth overall rushing defense. One of the two teams the Bulls face in the 2017 season that received votes in the preseason AP Poll, a victory over the Cougars would be a big boost for the USF program on the national level.

Tulsa

Thursday, Nov. 16, 8 p.m., Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, ESPN

The final installment in a three game home stint, the Bulls will take on the Tulsa Golden Hurricane after their second and final bye week. Although the Bulls schedule is a weak one, scheduling their three toughest opponents for the final month will help garner some clout as the season draws to a close. Tulsa is the only other team that received votes in the preseason AP Poll after finishing 10-3 and second in the American West in 2016. Tulsa should remain in relatively good graces with the AP Poll as the season progresses if it can maintain a solid record. 

UCF

Friday, Nov. 24, Orlando, ESPN or ABC

The War on I-4. The annual battle for central Florida wraps the Bulls’ season for the third year in a row. South Florida hopes to be able to take home the trophy for the third year in a row as well. Although UCF will be led by a strong coach in Scott Frost, the Knights remain inconsistent at quarterback. Frost’s defense, however, will improve upon its solid performance last year. Expect this year’s War on I-4 to be the toughest game the two programs have ever played. If the Bulls can remain undefeated to this point in the season, their playoff hopes will rely on a victory against their rival.

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