Week four of the college football season couldn’t have gone any better for the Bulls.
Along with USF knocking off West Virginia, the outcome of nearly every other game in the country fell in its favor.
The prominence of the Bulls’ victory at Auburn was restored when the Tigers defeated the defending national champion Florida Gators. Their last-second field goal ended one of the wildest college football weekends in recent memory.
When the latest rankings came out, the Bulls had jumped up 12 spots to a No. 6 ranking in the Associated Press poll and No. 9 in the ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll.
“This is a blue-collar football team, and I mean that in the highest regard,” USF defensive coordinator Wally Burnham said. “They’re disciplined and they work their tails off every day. It’s not easy here – we practice hard and the kids respond.”
Since USF’s 26-23 overtime victory in Auburn, voters in each of the polls have taken notice. In four weeks, the Bulls went from unranked to No. 23, No. 18 and now No. 6.
What makes week four even crazier is USF’s surge in the poll isn’t a stretch. Half of the teams in the top 10 lost, allowing the Bulls, Kentucky and Boston College to cut their rankings down to single digits.
Only 13 ranked teams are undefeated, down six from the previous week. With so many teams suffering early-season upsets, only two new teams earned rankings in week five.
The first home loss in Urban Meyer’s tenure resulted in the Bulls’ promotion to the highest ranked team in the state. The Gators dropped five spots to No. 9.
This weekend’s annual contest between Big 12 powerhouses Texas and Oklahoma lost its luster when both programs fell on the same day for only the fifth time in 101 years.
Conference rival Rutgers fell at home to an unranked Maryland team led by backup quarterback Chris Turner. The Scarlet Knights fell 11 spots to No. 21, allowing USF to claim the highest ranking in the Big East.
Cincinnati’s dominating win at San Diego State allowed them to move past Rutgers to No. 20. The two teams open the Big East portions of their schedule Saturday in New Jersey.
With a record of 1- 0 in conference play and a victory over the Mountaineers, the Bulls are now looked at as the front-runners in the Big East. But the perception as the best in the conference is not something new for the USF coaching staff.
“You go back two years ago, I remember the term that was used was ‘skunk.’ So we carried a little skunk around,” coach Jim Leavitt said. “Then we went and lost to Connecticut. Last year we lost to Cincinnati. (If) we don’t lose those games – we’re right in the hunt for a Big East championship.”
With Louisville and West Virginia losing in its conference openers, there has never been a better opportunity for the Bulls to contend for a BCS bowl game.
Representatives from the Sugar, Orange and Fiesta bowls were in attendance Friday and USF has become the new team everyone wants to see play.
Even through all the excitement of defeating their highest ranked opponent, the Bulls realize they have taken only the first step toward their goal.
“We can’t win one big game a year and (have people) say, ‘Oh, this team might be good,’ and then lose to somebody that’s not as good as that team,” quarterback Matt Grothe said. “We’ve already beat two highly ranked opponents and we’ve got to keep going on.”