After a long, long offseason, you would think that I, the responsible blogger that I am, would know everything there is to know about Notre Dame's first opponent. Lies, all lies. I spent my summer bathing in Trojan blood and drinking Kiffin-tears.
Still, my quest for Bull knowledge continues. In that spirit, I have asked Voodoo Five a series of really serious-type questions (none of them involve Skip Holtz for some strange reason). They in kind, have also decided that they really needed to know how insanely wild this portion of the fanbase gets, and have asked their own questions. I replied as only I can.
Here we go...
1. You have many good football players NOT named BJ Daniels. Please describe one from both sides of the ball.
On offense, let's go with Darrell Scott, who will suit up for USF for the first time on Saturday. Scott was the #1 running back recruit in the country in 2008, signed with Dan Hawkins to play DIVISION ONE FOOTBALL at Colorado, then promptly fell off the face of the earth. He transferred to USF last summer, sat out his transfer year, and will at least split carries with Demetris Murray. I had been maintaining that Murray still had the edge to start because he knew all the nuances of the position (blocking, pass catching, etc.) But we heard Scott was having a fantastic fall camp, and when Ken went to their fall camp in Vero Beach to watch them scrimmage, he texted me to say, basically, "Holy crap, Scott is a beast." Scott was notorious at Colorado for looking great in practice and then falling on his face on game day, so we'll have to see if it carries over to Saturday.
On defense, how about Ryne Giddins, who is a sophomore defensive end. Giddins might be the highest-profile player to ever sign with the Bulls right out of high school. (He went to nearby Armwood High, one of the best football programs in the state.) Much like George Selvie and Jason Pierre-Paul before him, Giddins is a quick, rangy athlete who can cause problems in the offensive backfield with his speed, and might have some increased power after an off-season of weights. He's not lacking in confidence, either -- last year he predicted he could get one sack on every 10 snaps he played, which I extrapolated to a total of 42.5 sacks. He didn't quite get there, but he is a legitimate breakout candidate and easily the most talented defender the Bulls have.
2. OK, you can tell us about BJ Daniels. Seriously, tell us about your QB.
This is a make-or-break year for Daniels. He's a junior going into his third season as a starter, and he can be an explosive player, but that cuts both ways. He regressed quite a bit last year because he was in a structured offensive system for the first time. As a freshman, the offense turned into streetball and Daniels improvised a lot of big plays. As a sophomore, he showed how far he had to go as a true quarterback -- for instance, USF had a 7-0 lead in Gainesville near halftime before Daniels completely melted down and threw four interceptions. He had other horrible games against Syracuse and West Virginia, and after that the offensive coaches reined in the offense a lot because no one else was ready to play. Daniels doesn't have to play perfectly for the Bulls to contend for the Big East title, but he has to get significantly better under center.
3. With the impending hammer ready to be dropped onto Miami, is there hope around South Florida that the Bulls will be able to capitalize the most from a weakening Hurricane? Why or why not? How far can this program go nationally? Is a conference jump in the future?
Absolutely there's hope. The Bulls have to keep winning, obviously, and they'll also have to fight off a lot of other schools for the kind of player that Miami may not be able to get anymore. I don't think USF's biggest threat is in state, because Florida and Florida State will always be able to get the kids they really want. It's the BCS schools from out of state who like to recruit Florida that are the biggest challenge. Teams like Iowa and Louisville and West Virginia and, yes, sometimes even Notre Dame. The plus side is that we have an easier sell than schools up north.
I don't think USF can be a year-in, year-out national contender. Partially because of the league they're in, partially because of some internal department issues, but mostly because the structure of college football won't really allow it. The blue bloods of the sport have such a giant head start in tradition and money and fan bases, and it's so hard to catch up to all of that. I'd like to see USF become like a Virginia Tech or even a Wisconsin. If they can be a team that's consistently ranked at the end of the season, goes to quality bowls, and has a positive national profile, I'd be thrilled.
We'll have to see how all the college expansion shakes out to see if anyone would be interested in adding us to their league. My gut says no, unless Florida State goes to the SEC and the ACC wants to replace them with another Florida school. Otherwise I think USF stays in the Big East, with who knows how many new or replacement bunk mates. If the superconferences come to pass, there's a risk they could get shut out of whatever BCS leagues wind up forming in the end, which would be a catastrophe for the entire university. I don't think I could handle having to return to some C-USA type quagmire to play teams like Southern Miss and Memphis and East Carolina for near-eternity. (They all went mental when USF was picked to join the Big East originally, and they haven't really gotten over it.)
4. I'm not a fan of colleges using pro stadiums. What is the atmosphere like with games so far off campus? Is there any chance of building a stadium of your own?
The students and the hardcore fans will be there no matter what. The problem is attracting casual fans to games, which is driven by how good USF is and how good the schedule is. Last year the Bulls were just kind of there, and the home schedule was awful. So there wasn't a real strong atmosphere at the games. But then you watch games on TV like the West Virginia game in 2007, when the stadium was sold out and everyone was jacked up, and the last thing on your mind was that the stadium was off campus. That was probably the loudest game in the history of that stadium, and I've been to crazy Monday Night Football games where the collective blood-alcohol level was off the charts.
USF wants their own stadium in the long run, but there are two main issues. One is where they would put it. I know Brett McMurphy quoted a Big East AD as saying he would drop one on top of our golf course (across the street from campus), but there are several issues with doing that, and there isn't really a space on campus suitable for all the infrastructure a new football stadium would require. Also, we want to do a stadium the right way. Everyone always cites UCF's on-campus stadium when they try to tout them for expansion or whatever, but they did it on the cheap and essentially built a gigantic high school stadium. No one associated with USF who's become accustomed to Raymond James Stadium's amenities wants that. On the other hand, Minnesota built a 50,000-seat stadium a few years ago with concrete and bricks and amenities, and it cost them a cool $300 million. So an on-campus stadium is a long way off.
5. How do you see this game playing out? How big is this game to South Florida?
I don't really know. This being the first game of the season, and knowing that Notre Dame had a completely different philosophy ending 2010 than they did starting it, I have no clue what to expect from either team. I don't think the Bulls will get blown out, but I'm not totally confident they can win. In the words of Marko Ramius, personally I'd give us one chance in three.
Winning the game would be another shot in the arm for the USF program, but to be honest, I'm getting a little tired of shot-in-the-arm wins in September. Pittsburgh, Louisville, Auburn, West Virginia, FSU... all wins in September, and all of them meant diddly at the end of the year because the Bulls didn't come close to winning their conference. I'd gladly sacrifice this game if it meant beating West Virginia to end the season and going to a BCS game.
BONUS: Are you planning on going to this game? If yes, what are your expectations? What are your hopes? If no, are you insane? Seriously!
Unfortunately I am staying in Dallas. I had to choose between this game and stringing together a different trip in December where USF hosts West Virginia in football on a Thursday night, then plays basketball at Kansas that Saturday. (Then that fell through too, so I had to settle for a weekend trip to Tampa to see USF, the Bucs, and my family.) And second... this is going to sound presumptuous but I don't think this is the last time USF is going to play at Notre Dame. As long as the Irish stay independent and keep bringing in Big East schools to play them, I think USF will eventually get another shot.
Be sure to check out more USF stuff over at Voodoo Five. GO IRISH!!!