As we countdown to kickoff in September, we’re going to be doing a team-by-team preview each week over the summer. SU will continue its 2016 non-conference schedule when it hosts USF on Sept. 17.
AAC FAVORITES: There is a buzz about the 2016 USF team that hasn’t been there since the end of Jim Leavitt’s head coaching tenure—and for good reason. The Bulls were one of the hottest teams in college football to close the 2015 season, with South Florida winning seven of its final eight games. The only blip was to a Navy team that would go on to win 11 games. Though the Bulls lost to Western Kentucky in the Miami Beach Bowl, it was still its first bowl appearance since 2010, and USF returns many of its weapons from last season.
WHO TO WATCH FOR: It was a breakout season for junior quarterback Quinton Flowers, who threw for 2296 yards and 22 touchdowns, while rushing for 991 yards and 12 more scores on the ground. Syracuse fans probably don’t need any introduction to Flowers, who gashed the Orange for 259 yards through the air (a season high) along with three total touchdowns in a 45-24 win last year. USF also returns its top running back (Marlon Mack – 1381 yards, eight TDs) and receiver (Rodney Adams – 822 yards, nine TDs). On defense, coordinator Tom Allen left for Indiana in the offseason. Allen’s 4-2-5 allowed for the Bulls to finish a respectable 52nd in the NCAA in defense, holding opponents to 380.5 yards per game. But the Bulls return middle linebacker Auggie Sanchez, who led the team with 117 tackles.
PREDICTION: Flowers had one of his best performances against Syracuse last season, and with a full year under his belt, he’ll enjoy another solid outing in the confines of the Carrier Dome. Still, the Orange offense will give the Bulls all they can handle in a tight loss. USF 42, SYRACUSE 31.