Top 25 Countdown

No. 13 South Florida

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Basics

2007 record

9-4, 4-3 Big East (lost to Oregon, 56-21, in the Sun Bowl)

Returning Starters

10 offense, 6 defense

Key Game

vs. Kansas, Sept. 12

Player to Watch

George Selvie, junior defensive end

Selvie had 14.5 sacks last season on his way to the Big East defensive player of the year award. At 6 feet 4 and 245 pounds, Selvie is a speed rusher around the edge. He became the first consensus all-American in South Florida history.

Why They're Worth Watching

Coach Jim Leavitt has raised the program from its infancy to a Big East contender, rising as high as No. 2 in the national polls last season after topping Auburn and West Virginia. Like other Florida schools, the Bulls are a team primarily composed of homegrown talent. Their rise has been aided by dual-threat quarterback Matt Grothe, a junior who passed for 14 touchdowns and ran for 10 more. Combined with sophomore running back Mike Ford and senior running back Benjamin Williams, an offense that returns 10 starters will look to build on a season in which it averaged 34.7 points per game. Watch out for 6-4 sophomore wide receiver Carlton Mitchell, who emerged late last season to lead the team in receiving. The speed will be apparent on defense, too, where Selvie excels and junior college transfer Kion Wilson is expected to make a push at middle linebacker if he effectively returns from an injury suffered in the spring.

Why They're Vulnerable

The Bulls must replace cornerbacks Mike Jenkins and Trae Williams, who were selected in April's NFL draft. Williams recorded six interceptions last season -- and returned three for touchdowns -- and Jenkins was a first-round pick whom opposing quarterbacks rarely challenged. Now, the Bulls will count on junior Jerome Murphy and senior Tyller Roberts. A team that relies on man coverage needs its defensive backs to contain opposing receivers long enough to allow Selvie to penetrate the pocket. Although South Florida has the benefit of elite free safety Nate Allen, how Leavitt replaces Jenkins and Williams might dictate the team's success. USF has restocked at linebacker, but the since departed Ben Moffitt was the pulse of its defense last season. Offensively, the freewheeling style that makes Grothe successful also makes him vulnerable. He threw 14 interceptions last season and only completed 59.2 percent of his passes.

-- Zach Bermann


No. 12 Texas Tech.


No. 25 Arizona State, No. 24 Alabama, No. 23 Cal, No. 22 Penn State, No. 21 Wake Forest, No. 20 Wisconsin, No. 19 Tennessee, No. 18 Oregon, No. 17 Illinois,

No. 16 Kansas, No. 15 BYU, No. 14 Virginia Tech.

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