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Let’s get to know USF: Recapping the Bulls’ 2020 season

There were not a lot of positives for USF last year.

Central Florida v South Florida Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

We are eight (!) days away from NC State’s season-opener, so it’s a good time to start taking a look at the Wolfpack’s opponent, South Florida. First, a look back at what happened to the Bulls in 2020.

Record: 1-8
SP+ rank: 107
Offense SP+ rank: 115
Defense SP+ rank: 88

Someone did finally pry a coordinator away from Clemson, and that someone was USF, which hired Tigers co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott to replace Charlie Strong as head coach.

Scott may prove a good head coach but he’s no miracle-worker, and the Bulls cratered badly in his first season, failing to win a single game against an FBS opponent. (Though they came perilously close a couple times.) That led to a final SP+ ranking of 107, which is the worst mark in program history. It also put the Bulls right between Duke and Syracuse.

USF’s offense averaged 5.06 yards per play, good for 98th nationally. SP+ didn’t even like the unit that much. Bulls quarterbacks ranked 106th in yards per attempt (6.2) and 95th (120.87) in passer rating. The offensive line surrendered 30 sacks—an average of more than three per game.

In eight games against FBS opponents, USF cracked 4.5 yards per play just three times and twice was held under 4.0 YPP (Notre Dame, Cincinnati). It’s pretty tough to win that way.

The defense had its share of problems in surrendering 6.06 yards per play—6.32 if you remove its game against The Citadel. The Bulls allowed nearly five yards per carry and managed just seven sacks on the season. Only Navy and Arizona averaged fewer sacks per game. This unit played surprisingly well against Cincinnati (4.7 YPP allowed) but otherwise there was not a lot to like.

Dave Doeren knows a little something about the difficulties of a Year Zero and Jeff Scott experienced all of them firsthand in 2020. While it’s not realistic to expect the Bulls to make the kind of year-two jump that the Pack did under Doeren, last season was probably the nadir of the Scott era. USF should be better, but a lot is gonna hinge on, uh, Cade Fortin.