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Rivalry with Miami Continues for South Florida: Fan’s Look
This weekend's contest between the South Florida Bulls and the Miami Hurricanes features two teams that are each ranked outside the nation's top 25 college football teams. Though high hopes once existed for their seasons, 2011 has been filled with disappointments for both of these Florida-based programs.
Nevertheless, the game to be played on Saturday, November 19, is a compelling match-up and will focus a spotlight on two teams with potential to make significant impacts in the near future.
The history of college football in the Sunshine State is filled with interstate rivalries, including Florida State vs. Florida, Florida vs. Miami, and Miami vs. Florida State. Newer to this equation is the University of South Florida. Lacking the tradition of its neighboring schools, USF has only played football since 1997.
After spending four seasons building its program Division I-AA, the Bulls joined the big boys in 2001 and have steadily improved since. In 2005, the school took the giant leap of joining the Big East Conference, a move that enabled them to compete in a BCS conference and paved the way for entry in major post-season bowl games.
That goal has yet to be accomplished, but South Florida has certainly put itself on the football map in short order.
At the same time, the University of Miami—one of the top college programs of the past three decades—has significantly regressed. The Hurricanes not only enjoyed a perception of dominance in popular culture, but they once possessed the track record to back it up. From 1983 to 2001, the Coral Gables school won an astounding 5 National Championships.
However, the past decade has not been kind to the Hurricanes. Now on their third coach in the past six years, the school has seen minimal results on the field, while dodging allegations and scandals off the field.
In many ways, the game at Raymond James Stadium appears to feature two teams heading in opposite directions.
Yet, I do not interpret the picture to be so crystallized. Much was expected of South Florida in 2011 under second-year head coach Skip Holtz. Despite strong play from quarterback B.J. Daniels and a bolstered running game led by transfer Darrell Scott, the Bulls find ways to lose. With a 5-4 record, those hopes have been largely dashed, as the school has continued to struggle in conference play.
On the other hand, despite a pedestrian 5-5 record, the Miami Hurricanes were widely lauded for their off-season hire of head coach Al Golden. The 42 year-old had been one of the hottest young coaches in college football for several years. Following tutelage under veterans like Joe Paterno and Al Groh, Golden impressively took small Temple University to unheard-of winning heights.
After losing the initial two meetings, USF kick-started the rivalry with Miami in 2010 with a thrilling 23-20 overtime victory at Sun Life Stadium under backup quarterback Bobby Eveld, who took over for an injured Daniels in the second half.
These two non-conference schools will continue to play annually during the month of November through 2013 and, hopefully, beyond as well. More than any other factor, both teams can be contenders in college football because of geography. Playing in Florida, USF and Miami have a stellar local recruiting base in which to tap.
However, competition for the interest of top high school players will be stiff—not only from in-state rivals, but from big programs throughout the country.
I hope Saturday's meeting of South Florida and Miami proves as exciting as last year's contest. Though neither school will compete for a spot in the BCS in 2011, both programs retain the potential for continued success in the future.
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Jeff Briscoe is a writer from the Tampa area who covers sports for the Yahoo! Contributor Network and the Fort Myers Examiner. A South Florida Bulls fan, he enjoys visiting the NFL's Raymond James Stadium for college football too.
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