Paul Myerberg of the excellent Pre-Snap Read website recently reviewed the USF Bulls. USF is one of those teams that FSU should not lose to, but the nature of the game (it is USF's superbowl while being a bit of an afterthought for the 'Noles, who will be coming off the Clemson contest, in Tampa, etc.) and the fact that USF has athletes means it cannot be put in the "lock" category. Heck, Florida State won't even likely be favored by more than two touchdowns. Some are picking USF to make a BCS bowl, and they were voted by the media to finish second in the Big East.
Here's a snippet of the preview. Please do go read the entire thing and support Paul's tremendous work.
In a nutshell I can almost regurgitate the same line that opened last year's preview: South Florida is one of the top four teams in the Big East and a very obvious contender to net the league's automatic B.C.S. bid. And as during last summer, I can also say that I don't trust the Bulls to mount a successful run to the top of the Big East; I can even cite the same issues that led me to question this team heading into last September - not speed, not talent, not athleticism, but simple consistency. U.S.F. strikes me as a team that still lacks proven production in the spots that ultimately decide a team's season: at quarterback, along the offensive line and in the secondary. I want to get on board, seeing that U.S.F. clearly has the overall talent level to win the Big East, but I can't get past the idea that this team will again struggle to put together extended periods of solid football.
On defense, the most looming concern is a lack of depth everywhere except at defensive tackle. That's big, however: U.S.F. has enough bodies up front to do a nice job against the run. But this defense could fall apart if it losses Giddens or Forte, or if one of the three linebackers - Lattimore in particular - goes down for an extended amount of time, or if Cosh is forced to go deep into his depth chart in the secondary. Offensively, everything will continue to run through Daniels' arm and legs; while he is entering his fourth season as the Bulls' starter, I'm not confident in Daniels' ability to take advantage of the weapons at his disposal at receiver. Where U.S.F. will win games on offense is by running the football effectively, something it can do if the interior of the line rounds into form.
I'm putting U.S.F. behind Cincinnati, Louisville and Rutgers - that's in alphabetical order, by the way - but hedging my bets with this projection: If Daniels provides balance to the offense, the front seven remains healthy and a cornerback steps up opposite of Webster, the Bulls should win the Big East. My issue is that I can't see all of those events coming to pass - if even just one of them.
Dream season The Bulls lose to Florida State, as expected, and drop a Big East game at Cincinnati. But that's all for U.S.F., which nets its first double-digit win season, first Big East title and first B.C.S. berth.
Nightmare season U.S.F. drops every conference road game - Temple, Louisville and Cincinnati - and two Big East home games, to Rutgers and Pittsburgh. These five are joined by losses to Nevada, Florida State and Miami (Fla.), handing the Bulls eight losses for the first time in school history.
Paul is not as high on USF as some, but this an excellent read nonetheless. And I think he'd agree that the cirumstantial factors make this a more challenging game for Florida State than some might realize at first glance.