Sports

American Athletic Conference opponent preview: USF

In the ninth and final part of a series, we take a look at new football opponents.

Temple is a founding member of The American Athletic Conference. Since the Owls are playing in a new conference with new opponents, The Temple News will be taking a look at the new rivals of the football team and providing some important facts that Temple fans should know about the new conference opponents. Last up: the University of South Florida Bulls.

The University of South Florida isn’t really in south Florida – its main campus in Tampa is in the middle of the state, 1,036 miles away from Temple. Much like Temple, the Bulls share a stadium with an NFL team, playing in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ home, Raymond James Stadium.

USF’s football program is young, having been founded in 1997 and joining the Football Bowl Subdivision in 2001. The Bulls were independent until 2003, when they joined Conference USA. They only stayed there for two years before jumping to the Big East Conference in 2005. Their career record is 108-69, giving them a career winning percentage of .610. Temple won its first-ever matchup against South Florida last season 37-28.

The Bulls are 32-31 over the past five years. Last season’s 3-9 record marked their worst season in school history. In response, head coach Skip Holtz was fired and former Western Kentucky head coach Willie Taggart was hired. Taggart, the third coach in USF’s history, was the running backs coach at Stanford under Jim Harbaugh from 2007 to 2009, coaching 2009 Heisman trophy runner-up Toby Gerhart.

USF finished last in the Big East in 2012, going 1-6 in conference matchups. The Bulls finished 91st in the nation in offensive yards gained and 67th in defensive yards allowed (both out of 124 teams). They have also lost important players from the 2012 team to the NFL, including star quarterback B.J. Daniels and cornerback Kayvon Webster..

With the departure of Daniels, the starting quarterback job is up for grabs. Redshirt-sophomore Matt Floyd, senior Bobby Eveld and sophomore Steven Bench all have a chance at the spot. Floyd played the most last season, but he didn’t play well, throwing no touchdowns and five interceptions with a 51.8 completion percentage. Taggart has yet to announce a starter, but none of the options are all that intriguing.

Redshirt-senior linebacker DeDe Lattimore is the best returning defender. He has 239 tackles and 13.0 sacks in his career. He’s averaged 80 tackles a season – if he continues that pace in his final year, he will finish fourth on USF’s all-time tackles list. He will anchor a defense that looks to be the strong half of the team.

The most notable USF alumnus is New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul. Pierre-Paul only played one season in Tampa, in which he amassed 45 tackles and 6.5 sacks. In three seasons with the Giants, he has racked up 182 tackles and 27.5 sacks. Other former bulls in the NFL include Philadelphia Eagles safety Nate Allen and Atlanta Falcons linebacker Stephen Nicholas.

Temple does not face South Florida in the 2013 season.

Evan Cross can be reached at evan.cross@temple.edu or on Twitter @EvanCross.

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