The Big East RapidReports blog is taking a look at what went wrong at the three Big East schools that didn't make a bowl -- South Florida, Connecticut and Temple.
South Florida (3-9, 1-6 Big East)
Expectations: The Bulls were a chic pick to win the conference at the start of the season. With an abundance of talent at the skill positions, South Florida was chosen to finish second in the Big East preseason media poll. In August, the Bulls were so highly-regarded that they were even expected to provide a stiff challenge for Florida State and Miami (Fla.) in a pair of much-hyped, in-state matchups. Instead, the USF season fell apart early and they were beaten handily in both. The school dismissed former coach Skip Holtz at season's end.
What went wrong: USF's inability to pull out close wins became a recurring theme and ultimately may have cost Holtz his job. In the Bulls' best effort of the season, Holtz's team rallied against then-ranked Louisville but came up short in a 27-25 defeat. A week later, USF squandered a big halftime lead in a 37-36 loss to Syracuse. On defense, USF struggled to force turnovers. The Bulls are currently ranked 118th in FBS in turnover margin (minus 1.58 per game). As the losses piled up, USF became beset by the injury bug. QB B.J. Daniels and RB Lindsey Lamar both suffered season-ending injuries and missed the final three games. WR Sterling Griffin, a potential All-Big East performer, also went for the season in Week 2 after suffering a knee injury. Holtz, who resurrected the program at East Carolina, was victimized by bad luck.
When it went wrong: Looking back, a close loss to Rutgers on Sept. 13 can be excused but the season really went south after a 31-27 defeat to Ball State nine days later. It started a tailspin, as the Bulls only won one more game for the remainder of the season.
Biggest overall disappointment: DE Ryne Giddins. At 6-3, 266 pounds, Giddins has often been compared with former Bulls' lineman Jason Pierre-Paul for his combination of strength and athleticism. Giddins, though, only recorded 3.5 sacks and 4 TFLs. Giddins has one year of eligibility remaining, but could enter the NFL Draft early.
Bright spots: WR Andre Davis. At times, the talented wideout looked unstoppable, as his performances against Nevada and Rutgers illustrate. Syracuse coach Doug Marrone compared Davis favorably with USC wideouts Marqise Lee and Robert Woods. If Griffin can return to full strength, the Bulls could have a formidable duo next season. LB Sam Barrington finished ninth in the conference in tackles with 80.
2013 outlook: USF has received rave reviews for the hiring of former Western Kentucky coach Willie Taggart. While with the Hilltoppers, Taggart led his team to back-to-back 7-5 seasons over the past two years. Taggart, 36, served as Jim Harbaugh's RBs coach at Stanford (2007-2009). Taggart also coached under Harbaugh's father Jack on the Hilltoppers' Division I-AA national championship team in 2002. While with the Cardinal, Taggart was instrumental in furthering Toby Gerhart's development. In 2009, Gerhart finished second behind Mark Ingram in the Heisman balloting. The Bulls must replace their top three rushers from this season. USF must also find a dependable starting quarterback out of a group that includes Matt Floyd, Bobby Eveld and Tommy Eveld. QB Michael White (6-5, 200), a highly-rated recruit from Fort Lauderdale, could also be in the mix.
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