For the second year in a row, Florida State and South Florida will meet, but this time the scene shifts to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. The Seminoles won in the only meeting there back in 2012 by a score of 30-17 in front of a crowd largely decked out in garnet and gold.
“I will not sit here and argue about previous years being completely lopsided in the Noles’ favor, because that was the reality,” said Matthew Manuri of SoFloBulls Blog. “Florida State has a strong fan base in South Florida and will certainly show up in droves, but it will not be to the extent of 2012. USF has experienced a marked spike in new season ticket holders and converted about 90 percent of the renewals from a season ago.
“Not to mention (athletic director) Mark Harlan adjusting the ticket policies to prevent such lopsided home contests by limiting availability,” Manuri said. “As of today, the game is 60 percent sold out and it’s only August. If both teams arrive at Raymond James undefeated for the showdown, I believe it’ll be the most electric environment since the Bulls knocked off No. 5 West Virginia in 2007.”
Arriving undefeated won’t be a small task for either team. Florida State opens with Ole Miss in Orlando before hosting Charleston Southern and then visiting Louisville, perhaps making health a factor. After taking on Towson, the Bulls host Northern Illinois before visiting Syracuse. South Florida blew out the Orange last season in Tampa 45-24 in a game Manuri says was the beginning of a turnaround.
“Unfortunately, the Bulls did not reach the turning point before losing close, winnable match-ups against FSU (34-14), Maryland (35-17), and Memphis (24-17),” he said. “From the Syracuse game forward, USF averaged 38 (points per game) and finished 2015 averaging 34 (points per game). The 2015 USF offense shattered just about every single offensive record in school history and the Bulls return every statistical leader from a season ago. So yes, FSU better be weary and arrive to Raymond James prepared.”
Florida State holds an all-time 2-1 edge in the series. South Florida won the first meeting in Tallahassee in 2009 by a score of 17-7. As mentioned, FSU won in Tampa in 2012 and last season, the Seminoles pulled away 34-14 after the contest was knotted 7-7 at halftime, thanks to 266 yards rushing and three touchdowns from FSU running back Dalvin Cook.
“In my opinion, the game will be the best to date in the series,” said Manuri of this year’s contest. “I think quarterback play will be crucial for both teams in the contest, and turnovers will prove to be the dagger in the coffin. Sean Maguire being injured is a non-issue in my opinion because he’s frankly lackluster. It’ll be on (Deondre) Francios‘ shoulders to step up, and I’m certainly not discounting his ability to do so with zero actual game tape available.”
Like Louisville, who FSU plays the week before, USF will enter the season with a lot of momentum carrying over from last season. After winning just six total games in head coach Willie Taggart’s first two seasons, the Bulls went 8-5 in 2015, thanks to seven wins in eight games to conclude the regular season.
“The potential for USF in 2016 is almost scary for folks close to the program,” Manuri said. “Essentially, USF hasn’t enjoyed the luxury of sporting this deep and talented of a roster since 2010 when the Bulls knocked off Clemson in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. Even Vegas is feeling the Bulls in 2016, and they are certainly not alone.”
“Willie Taggart, aka Coach ‘Swaggart’, has cleaned up on the (recruiting) trail since his arrival in 2013,” Manuri said. “Taggart (and company) focused on mining the Southwest Florida corridor from Tampa all the way down to Immokalee, then down through (South Florida).”
South Florida is already off to a good start on the recruiting trail for 2017 and 2018. The Bulls currently rank 54th for 2017, according to the 247Sports Composite rankings, but are in the top 25 when it comes to 2018.
“While the rankings may not be at level of Florida State’s recruiting prowess, the ‘lord of the 3-stars’ not only compiled a roster stacked with underrated gems like Marlon Mack, Quinton Flowers, Deatrick Nichols, and Ronnie Hoggins but played them early,” Manuri said. “I truly believe USF football is built to last, thanks to Coach Taggart.” Continue Reading by Clicking Here
by Mike Ferguson, The Daily Nole
Mike Ferguson is the editor of The Daily Nole. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson
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