Is it really possible? Is it possible for the USF Bulls, yes, the USF Bulls, to be pulling away from the rest of the Sunshine Seven? As of the week four review, I give you an emphatic “yes.” The reason for this is a recipe of having a great quarterback in “do everything” player Quinton Flowers, adding a new defensive minded coach in Charlie Strong and then also having a relative easy/navigable schedule.
The recipe for success has worked so far for USF but all the teams in the Sunshine Seven will start to dip their toes into their conference play in the coming week(s). Many teams on this list will rise and fall based on their performances so this list is very much fluid for the next three to five weeks.
Let’s get to the results of last weekend and the videos!
USF, 4-0 (1-0)
In the previous write ups it’s been noted that USF has had a great offense for the last two or so years but really hasn’t put it together completely on the defensive side of the field. Last Thursday night the Bulls played their most complete game in arguably years as they throttled a very bad Temple team at home. Flowers “managed” the game by only having to attempt 20 passes and was held in check on the ground too by only accumulating 59 yards. However, Flowers still checked into the end zone twice on the night.
The most surprising event of the night, as previously noted, was definitely the defensive unit’s performance. Temple boasted a power run game with two tight end sets and a full back at times and the Bulls simply swarmed the ball carriers when they were handed the rock. Besides stomping the rushing attack of the Owls, the Bulls picked off the rotating Temple quarterbacks four times.
Miami, 2-0, (0-0)
With the sample size of USF being twice the size of Miami, it can be pretty difficult to truly “judge” which team is better than the other. The deciding factor for me is the efficiency and overall effectiveness of the both offensive units. USF has averaged 41 points through four contests. Granted, they’ve played pretty meek teams. Miami through two games has sputtered and stuttered to average about 47 points a game over only two contests. One verse a one-double-A opponent and then a “mid major” who believes their best defense is to have a high powered offense. Comparing both quarterback play though it shows pretty clearly who should be the number one team in our rankings and that’s USF.
Miami for their part last Saturday struggled in the first half against Toledo to get a rhythm on offense but once they did in the second half, it was a flurry of point put up on the scoreboard. Even though he only toted the ball 11 times, running back Mark Walton is quickly becoming the MVP of the team. When he participates in a play, he’s usually pacing the offense to success. When he sat out for the end of the first half and parts of the second half, the offense languished. In the end, Miami’s talent was enough to ground the Rockets and get the victory in their last out of conference game before the late season rivalry game with Notre Dame.
Florida, 2-1 (2-0)
If a team isn’t very good… but they keep winning… does that make them truly a competitive team? I watch bits and pieces of the Gators games on a given Saturday and then I follow “from a distance” on Twitter and there games usually seem to be… painful. Last week in the rundown I had mentioned that it seemed like the Gators had settled on their quarterback of the future in the freshman Feleipe Franks. Well, Coach McElwain gave the young player the starting position against inner division rival Kentucky and was pulled from the lineup in the game for backup Luke Del Rio in the second half. The Gators went on the beat the Wildcats on a last minute touchdown pass to an uncovered (literally uncovered) receiver in the end zone.
So now the Gators are where they’ve been the last few seasons. Rudderless at quarterback with no true identity. Due to the fact that the Gators are in the SEC East they have a challenging yet winnable schedule for the rest of the season. We’ll see if the game with LSU in a few weeks proves to be a hurdle they can surpass or a true stumbling block. Until then they take on next week Vanderbilt at home.
FSU, 0-2 (0-1)
In polar opposite fashion when compared to the Gators, the Noles have played two tough opponents to open their season and have lost both games. One they lost handily when they played Alabama and then the other was last weekend at home against a feisty NC State Wolfpack team.
There are a few issues with the Seminoles but most notably it has to be their offensive line. Last season their starting quarterback, Deandre Francois got skewered by opponents on a weekly basis when it came to hits and quarterback sacks. In the game against Alabama the Seminoles lost Francois for the season to a knee injury and inserted true freshman James Blackman as the patchwork starter for the rest of the year. Blackman went on to have a decent game outside the red zone for the Noles but didn’t convert when it mattered most, inside the 20’s. What could be more troubling for the Noles though may not be their freshman quarterback, but rather will he survive the season due to their pass protection. NC State has a vaunted front seven and Blackman was running for his life most of the game. What makes the protection a more prominent issue is the fact that Blackman is listed at 6’6” and about 170 pounds. Being nick named the “Slim Reaper” may be endearing but the Noles literally need Blackman to stay healthy for the rest of the year. They don’t have much better options behind him.
UCF, 2-0 (0-0)
Just like Miami and FSU, UCF had a two week layoff due to the weather the last few weeks. However, unlike FSU and Miami, UCF had to travel for their next game to College Park, Maryland against the “trendy pick” Maryland Terrapins. Unfortunately for the Terps, they lost their starting quarterback in week one against the Longhorns to a leg injury and on the first series for them against the Knights, the same position got chomped on by the injury bug. For the rest of the game the Terps had to use their third string quarterback and that funk seemed to waft over the entire team in this loss. The Knights didn’t play exceptionally well on offense as they were still working out the kinks but the defense simply overwhelmed Maryland to the point where the Terps averaged one yard per rush and five yards per completion.
FAU, 1-3 (0-0)
After crushing Bethune-Cookman at home last week not everything was smiles and happiness in Boca Raton for the Owls. During the week Coach Kiffin decided to make a quarterback change from sophomore Daniel Parr who had done a solid job leading the offense to junior Jason Driskel. Driskel had started the last two seasons for the Owls before Parr had taken over the first three games og this season. Kiffin made the move because he was seeking more of a steady hand when it came to managing the running game and leading the passing attack.
Unfortunately in his first reappearance as the starting quarterback, Driskel could not lead the owls to a much needed victory against their opponent, Buffalo. The game was back and forth throughout but the Bulls pulled away in the fourth quarter and held on to win 34-31. Driskel finished the game by throwing for 150 yards and an interception, not exactly eye popping stats. We’ll see if Kiffin switches back to the more explosive Parr next week against Middle Tennessee State.
FIU, 2-1 (1-0)
After barely beating Alcorn State 17-10 a few weeks ago the year as a whole moving forward started looking ominous for Butch Davis and his FIU Golden Panthers. However, in a low scoring affair with very little offense to go around between the two teams, FIU won 13-7 over their in-conference opponent, the Rice Owls. Davis will take any victories he can get at this point so file this one away as a net positive for the program.
FIU takes on another in-conference program next week in the Charlotte 49ers.
Even though USF is starting to distance themselves from the other programs as the number one ranked team, the rest of the state is far more jumbled up and jostling for position amongst each other. The root issue for many is the lack of clarity at the quarterback position. If teams can settle on one play caller, they should do relatively well the rest of the season. We’ll have to see if the drama continues as the season turns from summer to fall.