2007 South Florida Bulls

Posted Dec 31, 2007

2007 South Florida Bulls Season, Game Recaps, Scores and Reviews

2007 South Florida Bulls

Recap: The streaky nature of South Florida's 2007 season was a reminder that this is still a neophyte program that lacks the consistency of schools that have been at this for more than just a decade.  The Bulls rose to No. 2 in the country with a 6-0 start, but lost three consecutive games to fall completely out of the Top 25.  After seemingly regrouping with lopsided wins over Syracuse, Louisville, and Pittsburgh, USF got bombed by Oregon and rookie QB Justin Roper in one of the worst performances of the postseason.  Such is life at a school that's clearly headed in the right direction, yet still has some growing up to do.       

Offensive Player of the Year: QB Matt Grothe

Defensive Player of the Year: DE George Selvie

Biggest Surprise: Everyone pointed to South Florida as a possible landmine for Auburn, but few really expected the Bulls to win this game on the road.  Grothe's touchdown pass to Jessie Hester in overtime gave USF its biggest win in school history and a level of national attention that's usually reserved for Florida, Miami, and Florida State.

Biggest Disappointment: Playing a Pac-10 team in the Sun Bowl was actually a pretty big deal for a South Florida program that's only played in the less prestigious Meineke Car Care and Papajohns.com Bowls.  The heralded Bull defense, however, got shredded by Oregon RB Jonathan Stewart in a 56-21 loss that set the program back a bit.         

Looking Ahead: It'll be interesting to see how South Florida reacts in 2008 to such a disappointing conclusion to 2007.  While a number of key losses on defense will make the unit more vulnerable, the offense returns enough starters to make a quantum leap next fall.

- 2007 USF Preview
- 2006 USF Season

2007 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2007 Record:

Sept. 1 Elon W 28-13
Sept. 8 at Auburn W 26-23 OT
Sept. 22
North Carolina W 37-10
Sept. 28 West Virginia W 21-13
Oct. 6
at Florida Atlantic W 35-23
Oct. 13 UCF W 64-12
Oct. 18 at Rutgers L 30-27
Oct. 27 at Connecticut L 22-15
Nov. 3
Cincinnati L 38-33
Nov. 10 at Syracuse W 41-10
Nov. 17 Louisville W 55-17
Nov. 24 at Pitt W 48-37
Sun Bowl
Dec. 31 Oregon L 56-21

Dec. 31
2007 Sun Bowl
Oregon 56 ... South Florida 21

Oregon ran for 353 yards on the supposedly stout USF defense with Jonathan Stewart running for 243 with a 71-yard touchdown dash and an eight-yard scoring catch. USF hung tough in the first half with a 35-yard Delbert Alvarado field goal making it 18-14 Ducks at halftime, and then the Oregon attack blew up with 31 straight points on three of Justin Roper's four touchdown passes and a 25-yard interception return for a score form Walter Thurmond. USF's Matt Grothe came up with a miraculous 21-yard touchdown pass to Taurus Johnson in the second quarter after spinning out of a defender's grasp, but he got banged up in the third quarter and gave way to Grant Gregory, who led the team with 42 yards on four carries.
Offensive Player of the Game: Oregon RB Jonathan Stewart ran 23 times for 253 yards and a touchdown with two catches for 29 yards and a score
Defensive Player of the Game: Oregon CB Jairus Byrd led the Ducks with eight tackles with two interceptions, four broken up passes, and a forced fumble,
Stat Leaders: South Florida - Passing: Matt Grothe, 18-35, 197 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Grant Gregory, 4-42. Receiving: Taurus Johnson, 4-51, 1 TD
Oregon - Passing: Justin Roper, 17-30, 180 yds, 4 TD
Jonathan Stewart, 23-253, 1 TD. Receiving: Jaison Williams, 4-40, 1 TD

Thoughts & Notes ...
Oregon apparently needed a time out. After the disappointment following the Dennis Dixon injury, and the ugly three-game losing streak to end the season, the team got some time off to regroup and played like the Oregon that was in the national title hunt deep into the season. It started with the lines with tackle Geoff Schwartz and center Max Unger dominated USF front four. ... Where were the South Florida linebackers? Ben Moffitt was non-existent with a mere four tackles and Tyrone McKenzie made ten stops, but not enough meaningful ones. Jonathan Stewart and the Duck runners spent way too much time in the Bull secondary. ... Oregon's only problem was with penalties committing 13 for 138 yards. South Florida committed eight for 64 yards. ... Justin Roper might not be Dixon running the ball, but he showed a little bit of mobility and threw extremely well. It helped that he got time, and it really helped that the Duck running game took away all the attention, but he turned the game into a rout in the third quarter.

Nov. 24
South Florida 48 ... Pitt 37
South Florida got an 80-yard touchdown run from Matt Grothe and two interception returns four touchdowns as part of a 34 points second half to pull away from the Panthers. Pitt got three scoring runs from LeSean McCoy and two Pat Bostick touchdown passes, but they weren't nearly enough to overcome a 37-yard Nate Allen pick six in the third and a 21-yard Trae Williams interception for a touchdown in the fourth. USF's Tyrone McKenzie and Pitt's Scott McKillop each made 18 tackles.
Player of the game: South Florida QB Matt Grothe completed 17 of 23 passes for 159 yards and ran 12 times for 67 yards and a touchdown.
Stat Leaders: South Florida - Passing: Matt Grothe, 17-23, 159 yds
Rushing: Matt Grothe, 12-67, 1 TD. Receiving: Carlton Mitchell, 5-32
Pitt - Passing: Pat Bostick, 24-37, 298 yds, 2 TD, 3 INT
LeSean McCoy, 18-55, 3 TD. Receiving: T.J. Porter, 7-74
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The defense might not have been as stellar as the team is used to in the win over Pitt, allowing 393 yards and 37 points, but it came up with several big plays including the two game-changing interception returns for scores to make up for the lack of consistent offense. Matt Grothe was efficient and the running game cranked out 193 yards, but the offensive line didn't have a good day needing the defense to set the tone. This might not have sealed a Big East title, but it ended the regular season 9-3 on a nice three-game winning streak going into the bowls. This might be an even better team than the record indicates, but it needs to be tighter. 11 penalties are way too many.

Nov. 17
South Florida 55 ... Louisville 17
Louisville fumbled away the opening kickoff for a score, and things would only go downhill from there with seven turnovers while allowing USF to jump out to an early 27-3 lead. Matt Grothe connected with Marcus Edwards for a seven-yard touchdown and Carlton Williams for a 30-yard score with things getting ugly on a 28-poiunt run. Trae Williams picked off a pass for a 64-yard score and Mike Ford ran for two scores. Brian Brohm threw a 59-yard touchdown pass to Harry Douglas, but he also threw three interceptions and way replaced. In all, the Bulls had three defensive scores.
Player of the game: South Florida QB Matt Grothe completed 17 of 23 passes for 194 yards and two touchdowns, and ran 12 times for 67 yards and a score
Stat Leaders: Louisville - Passing: Brian Brohm, 18-37, 213 yds, 1 TD, 3 INT
Rushing: Bilal Powell, 6-70, 1 TD. Receiving: Harry Douglas, 8-136, 1 TD
South Florida - Passing: Matt Grothe, 17-23, 194 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Mike Ford, 24-140, 2 TD. Receiving: Carlton Mitchell, 4-54, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The Bulls have turned up the defensive intensity forcing mistake after mistake against Louisville, while Mike Ford and the running game have been dominant taking the heat off Matt Grothe. After the midseason lull, now USF can keep hope for a ten-win season alive with a win over Pitt. As long as the offense isn't screwing up, and as long as the penalties slow down, after committing 11 for 95 yards, beating the Panthers won't be a problem.

Nov. 10
South Florida 41 ... Syracuse 10
South Florida outrushed Syracuse 346 yards to 15, and held on to the ball for almost 46 minutes, as Mike Ford ran for 134 yards with two one-yard scores, and Matt Grothe ran for a five-yard touchdown and threw for scores to Carlton Mitchell from 15 yards out and Taurus Johnson from nine yards away. Syracuse was down 20-0 before getting a 50-yard Patrick Shadle field goal with three seconds to play. The Orange only got into the end zone on a three-yard Mike Williams touchdown catch.
Player of the game: South Florida RB Mike Ford ran 28 times for 134 yards and two touchdowns
Stat Leaders: Syracuse - Passing: Cameron Dantley, 21-38, 276 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Max Suter, 3-11. Receiving: Mike Williams, 8-99, 1 TD
South Florida - Passing: Matt Grothe, 15-22, 181 yds, 2 TD, 1 INT
Mike Ford, 28-134, 2 TD. Receiving: Carlton Mitchell, 6-61, 1 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... South Florida finally limited the turnovers, giving away just one to Syracuse, but it committed 16 penalties for 144 yards. That's fine against SU, especially when you run for 346 yards and average 6.2 yards per carry. Matt Grothe appeared to play more relaxed than he did in the past few weeks, didn't force as many passes, and the result was a blowout. Now it's on to Louisville and Pitt to close out, and even after all the ugliness of the last few weeks, a ten-win season (needing a win in a bowl) is still possible.

Nov. 3
Cincinnati 38 ... South Florida 33
South Florida kicked off the scoring with a 73-yard interception return for a touchdown from Trae Williams, and then it decided to return the turnover favor. Eight times. Cincinnati went on a 31-7 first quarter run with a 63-yard Antwuan Giddens touchdown catch, answered by a Mike Jenkins kickoff return for a score, a blocked punt for a score, a 79-yard Mike Mickens interception return for a touchdown, and a 16-yard Dominick Goodman catch. And then the Bearcats had to hang on for dear life. South Florida got a nine-yard Jessie Hester touchdown grab with just over two minutes to play to pull within five, and after getting the ball back with 25 seconds to play, it got to the UC 18, but a last gasp pass was incomplete. USF outgained the Bearcats 481 yards to 375.
Player of the game: Cincinnati LB Ryan Manalac made 11 tackles, all solo stops, with two tackles for loss, one broken up pass, and recovered a fumble.
Stat Leaders: Cincinnati - Passing: Ben Mauk, 13-31, 162 yds, 3 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Ben Mauk, 7-75. Receiving: Dominick Goodman, 4-36, 1 TD
South Florida - Passing: Matt Grothe, 31-54, 382 yds, 1 TD, 4 INT
Matt Grothe, 22-75, 1 TD. Receiving: Benjamin Williams, 8-63
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... No one will believe it anymore, but South Florida really is that good a team. It just can't stop screwing up royally. It made the adjustments to stop Cincinnati's running game, but it kept giving the ball away, got down big, and needed a furious comeback to have a shot late. With a layup against Syracuse ahead, and winnable games against Louisville and Pitt to follow, the opportunity is there to right the ship, but the Bulls have to go back to doing what got them the accolades in the first place. They need to run effectively, play tough defense, and hang on to the ball.

Oct. 27
Connecticut 22 ... South Florida 15
Connecticut took a 16-0 lead with Steve Brouse catching a three-yard touchdown pass and Scott Lutrus picking off a pass for a 23-yard score, and then in the rain and mud, had to hang on for deal life. South Florida roared back in the second half with two Delbert Alvarado field goals and a ten-yard Matt Grothe touchdown run, and then had a chance to win in the final minute getting down to the Husky 12. On fourth and goal, Grothe's final pass was incomplete, and UConn hung on. USF committed ten penalties for 79 yards, while UConn committed six for 39.
Player of the game: Connecticut RB Andre Dixon ran 32 times for 167 yards, and caught three passes for 42 yards
Stat Leaders: South Florida - Passing: Matt Grothe, 16-30, 189 yds, 2 INT
Rushing: Matt Grothe, 25-146, 1 TD. Receiving: Jessie Hester, 6-50
Connecticut - Passing: Tyler Lorenzen, 13-25, 194 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Andre Dixon, 32-167. Receiving: D.J. Hernandez, 3-60

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... After losing two in a row, now South Florida gets to show just what kind of a team this is. Two weeks ago it was the nation's darling, and now it's a possible also-ran if it doesn't figure out how to handle a pounding running game in a hurry. Connecticut didn't do anything special; it simply stayed committed to Andre Dixon and the ground game. It was hard to get the passing going in the rain, and Matt Grothe did his best, but this was still an inconsistent all-around game with the offense unable to get anything rolling in the first half. To beat Cincinnati, the defense will have to turn things up a few notches, especially against the run.

Oct. 18
Rutgers 30 ... South Florida 27
Rutgers got 181 yards from Ray Rice, two touchdown catches from Tiquan Underwood, including a catch-and-run from 69 yards out, and a fake field goal for a perfectly placed pass from Andrew DePaola to Kevin Brock from 15 yards out to get ahead, but it was a 51-yard Jeremy Ito field goal, and an aggressive defensive stand that sealed it. Rutgers fought back in the fourth quarter with a 70-yard drive culminating in a one-yard Mike Ford touchdown run, and down three, got great field position for a chance to score late, but a sack, and later an offensive pass interference call on a 32-yard pass on fourth and 22 set up a game-sealing interception for the Scarlet Knights. Matt Grothe ran for a one-yard score and threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Jessie Hester for the Bulls.
Player of the game: Rutgers RB Ray Rice ran 39 times for 181 yards
Stat Leaders: South Florida - Passing: Matt Grothe, 17-34, 247 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Matt Grothe, 18-58, 1 TD. Receiving: Marcus Edwards, 4-50
Rutgers - Passing: Mike Teel, 11-29, 179 yds, 2 TD
Ray Rice, 39-181. Receiving:
Tiquan Underwood, 5-114, 2 TD
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... South Florida did a great job of overcoming big momentum shifts Rutgers' way, but in the end, Matt Grothe and the rest of the team couldn't overcome the mistakes. A missed field goal, a blocked field goal, no pass protection, allowing seven sacks, and ten penalties for 99 yards all proved to be killers. The lack of any consistent running game also proved to be a killer. Now it's important for USF to remember that the dream season is hardly over. Rutgers already has one Big East loss and still has the other big boys to go. If the Bulls win out, they're almost a lock to win the Big East, and should, at the very least, get into the BCS.

Oct. 13
South Florida 64 ... UCF 12
UCF hung around for the first 27 minutes, helped by a two-yard Kyle Israel touchdown run, and then USF closed strong with a 33-yard field goal and a nine-yard Taurus Johnson scoring grab in the final 1:30 of the first half. Those ten points sparked a 31-point run as Johnson caught another touchdown pass from nine yards out, and Matt Grothe ran foe a score and threw for another. The blowout got out of hand late as Carlton Mitchell scored on a 75-yard touchdown and Jessie Hester scored on a 28-yard touchdown catch. USC outgained UCF 543 yards to 145.
Player of the game: South Florida QB Matt Grothe completed 15 of 28 passes for 212 yards and two touchdowns, and ran 16 times for 100 yards and two scores
Stat Leaders: South Florida - Passing: Matt Grothe, 15-28, 212 yds, 2 TD
Rushing: Matt Grothe, 16-100, 2 TD. Receiving: Taurus Johnson, 6-83, 2 TD
UCF - Passing: Michael Greco, 6-616, 71 yds
Kevin Smith, 18-55. Receiving: Kevin Smith, 3-45

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... That's how you're supposed to act if you're a top five team. The Florida Atlantic win appeared to be a case of a slight letdown after the West Virginia upset, and now the destruction of UCF showed that the Bulls are fully focused again. George Selvie led the defense with a dominant performance that should solidify him as the nation's top end over the first half of the year, while Matt Grothe and the offense was balanced and efficient. The confidence should be sky-high going into road games against Rutgers and Connecticut.

Oct. 6
South Florida 35 ... Florida Atlantic 23
The final score wasn't quite indicative of how close USF came to blowing it. The Bulls turned it over four times, but got a huge day from RB Benjamin Williams, who scored from five, nine, and 54 yards out before finally putting it away with a nine-yard run with 29 seconds to play. FAU hung tough with Rusty Smith throwing three touchdown passes, highlighted by a 47-yard play to DiIvory Edgecomb late in the fourth to pull within five. USF outgained FAU 302 yards to 152 on the ground, but only 424 yards to 411 overall.
Player of the game: South Florida RB Benjamin Williams ran for 186 yards and four touchdowns on 25 carries, catching a pass for nine yards.
Stat Leaders: South Florida - Passing: Matt Grothe, 17-27, 122 yds, 1 INT
Rushing: Benjamin Williams, 25-186, 4 TDs. Receiving: Amari Jackson, 6-60
Florida Atlantic - Passing: Rusty Smith, 23-47, 259 yds, 3 TDs, 1 INT
Willie Rose, 10-59. Receiving: Jason Harmon, 7-82, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... As much as everyone doesn't want to say there was a letdown after the West Virginia win, there was a letdown. Florida Atlantic almost outUSFed, USF, forcing the turnovers, getting the timely offense when needed, and playing good, aggressive defense, but the Bulls were able to overcome the problems to run wild and get the drives and the plays needed late in the game to put it away. Now the team has to act like it belongs in the top five in America and blow out UCF.

Sept. 28
South Florida 21 ... West Virginia 13
The USF defense stuffed West Virginia's running game, and started off the scoring when LB Ben Moffitt picked off a Pat White pass for a 26-yard touchdown, in the seminal win in the young program's history. The Bulls took a 14-0 lead in the first half on a 55-yard Carlton Mitchell touchdown catch, and padded the lead on the opening drive of the second half, finishing with a 19-yard Jamar Taylor rushing score. The Mountaineer offense only managed two Pat McAfee field goals until late. With Pat White out with a leg injury, Jarrett Brown had to take over the West Virginia offense, and he came through with a nine-yard touchdown pass to Darius Reynaud with just under six minutes to play. The Mountaineers had one final shot, but Brown couldn't connect on a fourth down pass to keep the final drive going, and USF was able to run out the clock. The two teams combined for ten turnovers.
Player of the game ... South Florida LB Ben Moffitt made eight tackles, two tackles for loss, broke up a pass, and picked off two passes, taking one for a touchdown
Stat Leaders: West Virginia - Passing: Jarrett Brown, 11-20, 149 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Steve Slaton, 13-54  Receiving: Dorrell Jalloh, 5-87
South Florida - Passing: Matt Grothe, 9-17, 120 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Jamar Taylor, 15-58, 1 TD  Receiving: Benjamin Williams, 3-23

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... South Florida appears to know how to slow down the West Virginia, with quick, disciplined linebackers who don't miss tackles, and a defensive line that didn't allow too many holes. The Mountaineer running game got a few yards, but Steve Slaton, Pat White, and Jarrett Brown weren't able to get to the next level with their carries. To nitpick in such a huge win for the program, QB Matt Grothe has to be far more careful on his deep passes down the middle. He seemed to have problems locating the deep safety, and it cost him with two key interceptions and a few other near misses. It was like he was trying to make something happen that wasn't there. Now the key will be to avoid the letdown before the road date at Rutgers in three weeks.

Sept. 22
South Florida 37 ... North Carolina 10
South Florida suffocated North Carolina's offense all game long, not allowing a touchdown until the final minute, while the Bull offense overcame three turnovers to get three Delbert Alvarado field goals, five-yard touchdown runs from Mike Ford and Benjamin Williams, and a 12-yard Amarri Jackson 12-yard scoring grab. Jamar Taylor added a one-yard touchdown for a 37-3 lead late in the game. The Tar Heels were held to 164 yards of total offense.
Player of the game ... South Florida DE George Selvie made seven tackles and three sacks
Stat Leaders: North Carolina - Passing: T.J. Yates, 11-27, 85 yds, 4 INT
Rushing: Ryan Houston, 11-43, 1 TD  Receiving: Hakeem Nicks, 3-32
South Florida - Passing: Matt Grothe, 17-30, 230 yds, 1 TD
Benjamin Williams, 15-64, 1 TD  Receiving: Taurus Johnson, 3-34

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... So much for worrying about rust after an extra week off. Instead of being rusty, the defense was rejuvenated against North Carolina with a dominate performance in all phases. Matt Grothe wasn't sharp, and turned it over a few times, but he didn't have to be amazing considering the great play of the D. However, he can't fumble the ball, and he has to be better, for the Bulls to get by West Virginia next week. The defense won't be able to do it alone, but it will certainly provide several problems if George Selvie, who's having an All-America start to the season, and the front line can produce like they have to start the year.

Sept. 8
South Florida 26 ... Auburn 23 OT
South Florida forced overtime when Delbert Alvrarado, who had missed three earlier field goals and got one blocked, nailed an 18-yarder, and then answered a 39-yard Wes Byrum field goal with a perfect strike from Matt Grothe to Jessie Hester for a 14-yard touchdown and the upset. USF got up 14-3 in the first quarter on a Grothe one-yard run and a two-yard Mike Ford dash, but Auburn responded with a four-yard Mario Fanin scoring run and a three-yard Gabe McKenzie touchdown catch. However, the Tigers only managed two field goals after halftime and finished with five turnovers. The two teams combined to convert just six of 30 third down chances.
Player of the game ... South Florida DE George Selvie made four tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, and had three quarterback hurries.
Stat Leaders: Auburn - Passing: Brandon Cox, 16-35, 165 yds, 1 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Mario Fannin, 14-62, 1 TD  Receiving: Carl Stewart, 3-45
South Florida - Passing: Matt Grothe, 18-27, 184 yds, 1 TD
Mike Ford, 21-74, 1 TD  Receiving: Jessie Hester, 6-64, 1 TD

Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... It wasn't pretty, but South Florida isn't exactly going to throw it back. The Bulls got a great defensive performance, overcame a horrific night from the placekicking game, and hung tough when the momentum shifted Auburn's way late to come up with the biggest win in the school's history. Now the program can really start to shine. Beating good Big East teams is one thing, but beating Auburn in Auburn takes things to an entirely new level. The trademark defense, a mistake-free offense, and clutch coaching decisions from the gut, especially late in the game, made this win possible. This is now, officially, one of the big boys in the Big East, and this might turn out to be the league's biggest win, along with West Virginia's Sugar Bowl victory over Georgia, since the ACC defections.

Sept. 1
South Florida 28 ... Elon 13
Mike Ford scored three times and George Selvie came up with four sacks as South Florida had few troubles with the Elon Phoenix after the first half. It took a while for the offense to get going, but Ford was able to come up with a one-yard touchdown catch to start the scoring in the second quarter, a 20-yard dash early in the third, and a one-yard run to put it away in the fourth. Elon only managed two Andrew Wilcox field goals before finally getting into the end zone late in the fourth on a 26-yard Terrell Hudgins catch.
Player of the game ... South Florida RB Mike Ford ran five times for 77 yards and two touchdowns and caught one pass for a one-yard score
Stat Leaders: Elon - Passing: Scott Riddle, 31-52, 204 yds, 1 TD, 1 iNT
Rushing: T.J. Klegg, 15-41  Receiving: Terrell Hudgins, 13-81, 1 TD
South Florida - Passing: Matt Grothe, 22-38, 227 yds, 2 TD
Mike Ford, 5-77, 2 TD  Receiving:
Carlton Mitchell, 5-35
Whoopty doo. What does it all mean, Basil? ... The Bulls didn't exactly open it up against Elon, mainly because they didn't need to. Several players got involved on both sides of the ball as the coaching staff truly used this as a preseason game before the showdown against Auburn next week. The pass rush kept the Phoenix under pressure all game long, and the secondary almost never allowed anything deep. Getting QB Matt Grothe on the move against the Tigers will be a key next week, but limiting mistakes will be even more important. Grothe was able to manage the game well, but the Bulls had too many penalties.

Sept. 1 - Elon

Sept. 8 – at Auburn
Offense: Where are the stars? The Auburn offense is full of above-average talents who need to mesh into a better, more consistent attack than the one that averaged just 24.77 points and 321 yards per game while doing next to nothing against the top teams. Only one starter, massive tackle King Dunlap, returns to the offensive line, while the receiving corps could be a problem is no one becomes a reliable number two receiver alongside Rodgeriqus Smith. On the plus side, the running backs are deep and talented, Brandon Cox appears ready to be a more productive passer, and the tight ends are the best in the league by far.
Defense: The whole will likely be better than the parts. Auburn's defensive front has the potential to be excellent thanks to the return of star end Quentin Groves for his senior year and with the emergence of Sen'Derrick Marks on the inside. Getting into the backfield won't be an issue, and coming up with sacks had better not be with a secondary that'll be shaky despite getting three starters back. The loss of corner David Irons will hurt. The linebacking corps isn't experienced, but it should be better than last year's group as the season goes on.

Sept. 22 - North Carolina
Offense: The offense only cranked out 293 yards and 18 points per game with fits of wild inconsistency. Expect a bit more of the same with a young team still trying to figure out who the starters are going to be, but the overall production should be better. Step one is to determine who the quarterback will be to handle the passing game that'll run three and four wide sets. T.J. Yates was the star of spring ball, but he'll have to hold off star freshman Mike Paulus. There are plenty of good, inexperienced running backs to work with, and Hakeem Nicks is a potential star number one receiver. However, there aren't any certainties in the depth chart quite yet. The line will be serviceable, but nothing special.
It might take a year to turn things around after a disastrous 2006, but the young talent is there to get really, really excited. The defensive line has a slew of great prospects to work with, while the back seven has athleticism and quickness by design with a smallish linebacking corps. The return of Trimaine Goddard at safety will be a big help for the secondary, while the hopeful emergence of more pass rushing help for end Hilee Taylor should help the coaching staff implement it's attacking, aggressive style.

Sept. 29 - West Virginia
Offense: Unlike most schools that run the spread offense, West Virginia aims to open lanes for its prolific ground game, rarely putting the ball in the air more than 20 times a game.  The Mountaineers want the ball in the hands of its two junior Heisman candidates, quarterback Patrick White and running back Steve Slaton.  Along with receiver Darius Reynaud, they form the fastest offensive trio in America, and are threats for six with even a hint of daylight.  White is an underrated passer that rarely misses his target, but needs more help from a receiving corps that's suspect after Reynaud.  Few schools rebuild on the offensive line better than West Virginia, but how will the unit react without its long-time quarterback Dan Mozes and long-time coach Rick Trickett?
Defense: Lost in all the yards the Mountaineer offense gained in 2006 was all the yards the defense allowed.  West Virginia allowed 35 or more points three times last fall and was torched through the air repeatedly over the second half of the year.  Worse, this once relentless defense had trouble getting to the quarterback and looked a step slow.  Rich Rodriguez is banking on a few tweaks to the back eight and an influx of faster players as the solutions in the team's 3-3-5 stack formation.  Led by playmaking senior safety Eric Wicks, the secondary has a glut of really talented athletes that need to gel into a cohesive unit.

Oct. 6 – at Florida Atlantic
Offense: Things should be more consistent now that the quarterback situation is settled (at least to start the year) with Rusty Smith the full-time starter and Sean Clayton the backup. The running backs are experienced and quick, and Frantz Simeon leads a decent receiving corps, but it's all up to the line which was decent in pass protection last season but awful in the running game. It's a small front five by design, and that's a major issue for a ground game that averaged just 110 yards per game and an offense that struggled to amass 300 yards and 15 points per outing. 
Defense: The defense should be tremendous is all the starters play as expected. The back seven will be among the best in the Sun Belt with all three starters returning to the linebacking corps, two All-Sun Belt caliber safeties in Kris Bartels and Taheem Acevedo, and a shut-down corner in Corey Small. The defensive front gets three starters back led by top pass rusher Josh Pinnick and star tackle Jervonte Jackson. Even so, the run defense will be average, while the pass defense will be great.

Oct. 13 - UCF
Offense: Quarterback Steven Moffett and premier receiver Mike Walker have graduated, so logic dictates the Knights will lean on junior Kevin Smith for a while.  He's as good as any back in the league when he's healthy, and has the luxury of four starting linemen returning.  Don't expect any drop-off from Moffett to senior Kyle Israel.  In fact, the veteran of 16 games and five starts was so sharp down the stretch in 2006, some around the program feel he could be even better running the pro-style offense if a couple of the young receivers emerge.
Defense: Nothing typified UCF's collapse in 2006 more than the shoddy play of the defense, which finished 106th nationally and allowed almost 30 points a game.  The secondary was a particular mess, prompting George O'Leary to open up the competition at every spot, despite the return of four starters.  The coach had a chance to take the wrappers off some of his young kids late last year, which will benefit players, such as tackles Torrell Johnson and Travis Timmons and end Jared Kirksey, this season.  More than anything else, the Knights are looking to improve their team speed after looking a step slow throughout the 2006 season.

Oct. 18 – at Rutgers
Offense: Although Rutgers is more than content to pound the ball between the tackles 30 times a game with All-America running back Ray Rice, it wouldn't mind a little more offensive balance this year.  Whether that happens depends on the development of junior quarterback Mike Teel who struggled badly last year, but did play his best ball at the end of the year and has a speedy group of receivers needed to author a rebound.  While question marks exist on the interior of the offensive line, the tackle tandem of seniors Pedro Sosa and Jeremy Zuttah is one of the best in the country.
Defense: For Greg Schiano and his Rutgers defense, it's all about creating pressure and turnovers with a variety of different looks to confuse opposing offenses.  Everything came together last year for a unit that had 31 takeaways and allowed just 252 yards and 14 points a game, but five starters need to be replaced.  Senior defensive tackle Eric Foster is a ticking time bomb that exploded on quarterbacks in 2006, en route to All-America recognition.  He's the physical and spiritual leader of a front seven that's noticeably less experienced than last year.  Provided sophomore Devin McCourty can handle the corner spot opposite twin brother Jason, the secondary will rock with the return of all-league safeties, Courtney Greene and Ron Girault.

Oct. 27 – at Connecticut
Offense: For two years running, the Husky offense has been painfully inept, particularly in the passing game.  Tyler Lorenzen was recruited from the ranks of the junior colleges to specifically address that vertical shortcoming.  His arrival pushed D.J. Hernandez to slot receiver and set up a heated competition with sophomore Dennis Brown that'll resume in August.  While quarterback is a question mark, running back is not.  Sophomore Donald Brown exploded on to the scene in 2006 with almost 700 yards and five scores in a torrid five-game stretch to finish the season.  With a bunch of linemen back, he's poised for a monster season in an offense that still uses the run to set up the pass.
Defense: The bend-but-don't-break Huskies snapped like a toothpick in 2006.  The main culprit was a run defense that couldn't slow down anyone not named Rhode Island.  Things don't get any easier this year, as the unit will be looking for ways to replace both of last year's starting tackles.  Uh-oh.  Led by senior linebacker Danny Lansanah and junior corner Darius Butler, the back seven will be picking up a lot of the slack on Saturdays.  Expect the pass rush that produced only 11 sacks in the final eight games to get a spark from the returns of junior Cody Brown and sophomore Lindsey Witten, disruptive ends that'll be on the line together for the first time in September.

Nov. 3 - Cincinnati
Offense: Take whatever you knew about last year's Cincy offense and delete it.  Nothing will be the same, as Brian Kelly and his staff dismantle Mark Dantonio's plodding run game in favor of a fancy spread attack.  There'll be growing pains, to be sure, but by mid-season, there should also be improvement if a consistent quarterback, such as Wake Forest transfer Ben Mauk, develops and the line adjusts to a zone blocking scheme.  A receiving corps that's led by juniors Derrick Stewart, Dominick Goodman and Connor Barwin has a chance to blow up in the new system.
Defense: That Bearcat defense, which was so stingy a year ago, returns almost virtually intact.  The unit is small, but very quick from sideline to sideline, and prone to swarming anyone with the ball in his hands.  It all starts up front with a line that welcomes back four players with starting experience, including its figurehead, junior tackle Terrill Byrd.  Junior cornerback Mike Mickens is one of the best unknown cornerbacks in the country and the kind of defender that can shut down the opposition's No. 1 receiver.  While the offense takes time to adjust to a new system, the defense is going to keep Cincy in plenty of games.

Nov. 10 – at Syracuse
Offense: The pieces are there among the skill players for a night-and-day improvement from last year's putrid attack that cranked out a mere 264 yards and 17.4 points per game. The receiving cops, helped by the return of Taj Smith from injury, should be one of the best in the Big East, while Curtis Brinkley is a good back to work around. Sophomore QB Andrew Robinson is a star in the making, but he'll have a hard time with his consistency behind an offensive line that needs work even with three starters returning in the interior.
Defense: It might take a little while, but the D will improve as the season goes on, it struggled in every area but getting into the backfield, and with a strong defensive line returning, led be end Jameel McClain, generating pressure won't be much of a problem. The linebacking corps will be a work in progress with three news starters, but the excellent safety tandem of Dowayne Davis and Joe Fields should clean up plenty of messes.

Nov. 17 - Louisville
Offense: The coaching staff is new, but the results won't differ much from last season when Louisville rung up 37 points and 475 yards a game.  The Cardinals will spread the field and ask future first round draft choice Brian Brohm to distribute the ball to his plethora of playmakers.  Brohm's embarrassment of riches at receiver includes senior Harry Douglas, junior Mario Urrutia and senior Gary Barnidge, who combined for 159 receptions and 16 touchdowns in 2006.  Head coach Steve Kragthorpe and offensive coordinator Charlie Stubbs love leaning on the tight end, so Barnidge could be particularly busy this fall.  Even without Michael Bush the running game is in good shape with the returns of Anthony Allen and George Stripling, a thunder and lightning combo that had 20 touchdowns a year ago.  If Kragthorpe was able to supercharge the Tulsa offense, just imagine what he'll do with all the resources they have in Louisville.
Defense: Not unlike the offense, the Cardinal D is aggressive, unpredictable and built on speed.  They'll attack regularly which often means sacks, turnovers and the occasional busted play that goes for 65 yards.  The latter could happen a little more frequently in 2007, as the secondary adjusts to three new starters and uncertainty at cornerback.  Even without All-American tackle Amobi Okoye, the defensive line figures to be among the best in the Big East.  Sophomore end Peanut Whitehead and junior tackle Earl Heyman aren't household names today, but both have the explosiveness to change that by November.  Senior linebacker Malik Jackson is a disruptive force with enough range to wreak havoc all over the field.

Nov. 24 – at Pitt
Offense: The graduation of Tyler Palko leaves a gaping hole on the Panther offense that'll be filled by either junior Bill Stull or hot-shot rookie Pat Bostick.  Whoever gets the ball will enjoy an outstanding supporting cast that includes junior running back LaRod Stephens-Howling, one of the deepest receiving corps in the nation and the program's best front wall since Dave Wannstedt arrived.  Wannstedt and Matt Cavanaugh want to establish a more physical ground game, but if the new hurler is up to the challenge, the ensuing balance will make this a very dangerous offense.   
Defense: Last year's defense had big names, like H.B. Blades and Darrelle Revis, with poor results.  This year's defense is devoid of stars, but might wind up being statistically better.  The key will be stopping the run, something that vexed the Panthers throughout the second half of the 2006 season.  The difference this fall will be a defensive line that'll be much deeper than last year, and capable of creating inside-outside pressure with junior tackle Gus Mustakas and senior end Joe Clermond.  Although replacing Revis won't be a snap, the secondary is busting with potential from future all-Big East players, like sophomores Aaron Berry and Elijah Fields.


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