Division lead at stake as USF travels to Temple

USF coach Willie Taggart said USF is focused on taking the lead in the East Division, a feat they can accomplish with a win at Temple on Saturday. ORACLE PHOTO/JACOB HOAG

The last time USF played Temple it ended with the Bulls celebrating becoming bowl eligible as fans stormed the field at Raymond James Stadium in 2015.

Even though the Bulls (6-1, 3-0) won 44-23 that night and didn’t lose a game in the East division of the AAC, losses to Memphis and Navy gave the Owls (4-3, 2-1) the advantage and a spot in the conference championship game.

“I talked to about how this whoever wins this game can take the lead in the conference this side in the conference right now,” coach Willie Taggart said. “We just constantly talk about that feeling we all had when Temple and Houston were playing in the AAC Championship game and we were here practicing for a bowl game. We always discuss it and we’re ticked off, but we understand we have to do more to get what we want and Temple earned what they got last year.”

With a short week to prepare and distractions from the Big 12’s decision to not expand looming, Taggart said his team is paying no mind to anything other than preparing for Temple.

“Same way it was at the beginning of the year when you guys asked me: we support no cause, foreign or domestic, other than winning the American Athletic Conference Championship,” Taggart said. “That’s all we’ve been focused on, that’s all we talk about. I heard there was some news on the Big 12 yesterday, we’re locked into Temple.

“It would be so disrespectful to Temple or any other of our American brethren to worry about any other conference, so we make sure we respect any of our opponents ahead of us, especially our American brethren.”

AAC commissioner Mike Aresco told ESPN he was relieved the process was over and that it had been a distraction to managing relationships between the conference and the respective schools.

"You just had to try to control your emotions and realize it wasn't personal; it was the business of college sports as we know it," Aresco said of the Big 12 drama. "You try to empathize with everyone because this is a tough deal for everyone: for our schools, through people in the Big 12, for (Big 12 commissioner) Bob (Bowlsby). It's been tough on everyone.”

Injury Notes

Sophomore defensive back Ronnie Hoggins has been in practice and will play Friday after sitting out Saturday against UConn.

Sophomore tight end Elkanah Dillon was also back in practice and Taggart said he will be on the field against Temple.