BULLS – GOAL LINE STAND : AUGUST 24
By Leo Haggerty

Why is a picture of former Oklahoma All American and Bucs Hall of Fame DE Lee Roy Selmon accompanying my initial GOAL LINE STAND column on South Florida football you might ask?  That’s because, in my opinion, the Bulls have an excellent chance of attaining team greatness on a par with the individual achievements of #63 and that, USF fans, is saying something.

Can the Bulls win the American Athletic Conference Championship?  Absolutely.  Can South Florida go undefeated for the first time in school history?  Yes but I am going to add a caveat to my answer.  For that to happen, QB Quinton Flowers must line for every snap when the outcome of the game is in doubt.  If #9 can stay healthy, USF has a great chance of running the table.  Can a 13-0 Green & Gold football team make it to the 2018 College Football Playoffs?  It’s the longest of long shots and the team will need some major outside help with at least two other conference winners having multiple losses.

Let’s be honest here.  The Bulls have as much chance of making the NCAA Football Final Four as would a team erasing a 25-point second half deficit to win the Super Bowl.  Hey, wait a sec, didn’t that just happen?  Make’s you want to think and go Hmmmmm, doesn’t it?

Before each game in my GOAL LINE STAND article, I will cover the four thing I feel USF has to accomplish to win the football game.  Why four, you ask?  You only get four downs in a goal line situation so that’s all I should need.

As usual, enjoy.  Also, if you think I’m spot-on or, as Rodney Dangerfield used to say, “way off”, don’t be afraid to give me props or take me to task.  Comments are always welcome and appreciated and will be answered so here we go.

1st & GOAL – DON’T READ THE PRESS CLIPPINGS

The quickest way to lose a game is to underestimate the guys in the other color jerseys.  This is the biggest hurdle the Top 25 ranked Bulls have to overcome Saturday night.

Here’s why USF may view San Jose State as an inferior opponent.  The Spartans are coming off a 4-8 campaign and have a new Head Coach in Brent Brennan.  The former Oregon State coach also previously spent six years as an assistant with the Spartans so he knows, as Dionne Warwick said, “the way to San Jose” and that’s huge.  He already knows what he can and can’t do as he begins to rebuild the culture and nothing could advance that process quicker than a win over a ranked opponent.

Coming off a bad season and with a new Head Coach, San Jose State is the ultimate trap game for South Florida.  Add to that the fact that it’s the opener and the Bulls, with sky-high expectations, have to travel to the West Coast.  USF has only journeyed once before to the Left Coast to take on San Diego State and that didn’t end well.

If USF takes this contest lightly, the Spartans will jump up and bite them in the opener.  I believe HC Charlie Strong has emphasized all the points I’ve listed above on numerous occasions to his troop.  Look for the Bulls to come out with the same intensity they showed in the Birmingham Bowl and methodically wear SJSU down.  Bulls win the opener, 48-24, over the out-manned but game Spartans.

2ND & GOAL – SKILLED PLAYERS MUST SEIZE THE MOMENT

Not only does QB Quenton Flowers have to live up to the Heisman hype that’s surrounding his senior season but the other Bulls that have been recognized as possible postseason award winners have to step up as well.

On offense, players like #9 and RB D’Ernest Johnson along with C Cameron Ruff as well as a cohort of receivers too numerous to name have to play well.  On defense, LB Auggie Sanchez plus CBs Deatrick Nichols and Tajee Fullwood behind a solid cadre of defensive lineman have to seize the moment by playing up to their capabilities and beyond.

I’m looking for the stars on the Bulls roster, on both sides of the ball and in the area of special teams, to shine.  I expect the players HC Charlie Strong is counting on to have career years that will start with the opener.  Don’t be surprised if Flowers is the brightest light and has a Heisman Trophy worthy game.

3RD & GOAL – DEFENSE GETS OFF THE FIELD ON THIRD DOWN

This is a huge point.  The USF defense must, when it gets San Jose State in a third down situation, thwart the Spartans in their attempt to get a fresh set of downs.  If SJSU can convert on a majority of third downs, that will accomplish two of their major goals.

The first, and foremost, is to keep the high-octane USF offense off the field.  Second, it will shorten the game by allowing the Spartans to run time off the clock.  The one thing that San Jose State does not want to be forced into is an old-fashioned shoot out with the Bulls.  SJSU does not want to be playing catch up against a South Florida offense that scores quickly and often.

DC Brian Jean-Mary, along with his entire defensive staff, has pontificated throughout fall training camp that the mantra for the 2017 Bulls is to get off the field when their have the opportunity.  Either come up with a takeaway, and every coach loves to see the sudden change plays, or stop the opposition on third down.

With a new coaching staff and offensive philosophy at San Jose State, the USF defense probably will struggle early in the game in stopping third down situations.  Look for the Bulls to get better as the game goes on as the coaching staff along with the players get a feel for the SJSU offensive schemes.

4TH & GOAL – PLAY FASTER THAN A SPEEDING BULLET ON OFFENSE

If you thought the Bulls were at Mach 1 speed last year, wait until USF unveils the 2017 Warp 1 offense.  It’s full speed ahead, and then some, for the South Florida offense.

Last year, I said repeatedly that the only 2 teams in NCAA football that could put up 30 or more points in a game by just showing up was Clemson and USF.  Ladies and gentlemen, the final statistics proved that I hit the bulls-eye, no pun intended but it does sound pretty neat, on that statement.

This year, I’m going to have to qualify that statement just a touch.  Clemson, with the graduation of junior – yes he did graduate in three years – QB Deshaun Watson to the National Football League, will most probably have to slow down while the new signal caller, junior Kelly Bryant, get acclimated to the speed of the game.  Plus, the Tigers defense could be one of the best in the county, especially when it comes to the defensive line, and won’t need as many points to win a game.  CU will still get close to 30 a game but not the offensive juggernaut it was with #4 running the show.

It’s just the opposite at USF.  With Flowers at the helm for the third year, as the Air Force pilot told the drillers going into space in the movie Armageddon, “I’m just going to go faster and harder.”

Trust me, folks.  I’ve seen the USF at fall practice on numerous occasions and OC Sterlin Gilbert has the Bulls offense churning out plays at a frenetic pace.  If you go to the fridge for a cold one, chances are you’ll miss a score if South Florida has the football.

I’m predicting that USF will be the only team in 2017 that, when a staff like San Jose State has to create a game plan, a team must immediately come up with a way to score 35 points just to be in the contest.  The offense is that good, with #9 at the helm and an astounding core of skilled weapons at his disposal, it could lead the nation in points scored.

I’m saying right now USF averages in excess of 40 points a game.  Now that, my fellow fans, will be fun to watch.