While the Bulls chances of seeing a conference championship game ended nearly as soon as the season got underway, they still have an opportunity to make an impact on who will be playing for the title. This past weekend, USF nearly took down Cincinnati, the front runners of the AAC East.
Now, on Saturday, they’ll have their shot at the AAC West top team, as they take on Memphis at home.
Memphis, ranked 18 on the AP poll this week, enters into the game after a huge win against Houston. Sitting at 9-1 for the season, they’re coming in with a lot to play for with SMU and Navy on their heels for the top spot of the American West.
USF comes off of a heartbreaking near upset against the Bearcats, allowing them to rally from 10-point first-half deficit, to then take the game on a 37 yard game winning field goal with no time left.
However, the loss may have done more good than harm for the South Florida Bulls, as it’s given them confidence to compete with the top teams in the conference and some standout play from their freshman QB, Jordan McCloud who threw for a career-high 267 passing yards.
The end result didn't go our way, but there were still positives to come from Saturday night, including a career-high 267 passing yards from Jordan McCloud and another fumble recovery by the defense, giving us at least one takeaway in all 10 games this season. pic.twitter.com/010zsIRUDG
— USF Football (@USFFootball) November 18, 2019
The Bulls had raced out to a 10 – 0 lead early, being led by McCloud (photo above). USF went 71 yards in just eight plays on their opening drive, as Trevon Sands scored on a four yard run to make it 7-0. Freshman kicker Spencer Shrader made it 10-0 with a 28 yard field goal later in the second quarter.
USF’s defense continued in their solid efforts this season. They only allowed a measly 78 yards passing and had five sacks. Unfortunately they couldn’t keep the pressure up in the second half, and the Bearcats rally was led on the ground by Michael Warren II who tallied 134 yards and a TD. Cincy rushed for 200 yards as a team.
Memphis is the clear favorite, however, head coach Mike Norvell does not believe that the trip to Tampa is going to be a cakewalk.
"The last two weeks, they've had unbelievable battles. This is a team that has talent. They are one of the best defenses in our conference. They are playing with a young quarterback that has all of the talent in the world."#GoTigersGo
— Memphis Football (@MemphisFB) November 18, 2019
And while moral victories are certainly not what you want to be playing for at this point in the season, the Bulls have the chance to not only make their presence felt in the conference and potentially dethrone the American West leader, but reclaim the “War on I-4” title against UCF the following week.
Dabo Swinney endorsement helped USF get Jeff Scott
It’s often said in the job hiring process: “it’s not what you know, but whom you know” that can help you get the gig. And, when it came to USF looking to hire Clemson a co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott, “the whom” was his boss, Dabo Swinney.
On Wednesday, Scott met the media and USF fanbase in a huge press conference setting on campus in Tampa, and in his opening remarks made it very clear that one of the big reasons he was so interested in taking over the Bulls was the endorsement of his boss:
"This is one of them jobs you want!" Thanks for the love, Dabo! 🤘 pic.twitter.com/J8LgWTKnIZ
— USF Football (@USFFootball) December 11, 2019
“He (Swinney) said: great university, great location, great conference, great recruiting base right in your back yard…you can win there. And, they have a great athletic director in Michael Kelly.”
Kelly, who was formerly an associate commissioner of the ACC before joining the College Football Playoff, as COO, has been on the job at USF for about a year and a half. And, he used his previous dealings with Swinney through the conference and the CFP to help him get his hire.
Swinney would know about taking advantage of opportunities, as he was made the interim coach at Clemson 11 years ago and has now built them into a powerhouse in the ACC and the national college football landscape. The Tigers just entered the College Football Playoff for the fifth consecutive year and will be going for their third championship in four years later this month.
Scott, who agreed to a five year $12 million deal, has been part of that as co-offensive coordinator for the past five seasons. And, he agreed to leave that post to come to USF to resurrect a program that as recently as three seasons ago, was in the top tier of the American Conference.
But, it will be a challenge to get USF back on track, as the Bulls lost 14 of their last 18 games over the last season and a half under Charlie Strong. And, the losing has seen fan base dwindle to fewer than 15,000 people at any of their home games at the end of this past season.
Scott, who’s had the chance to work with All American QB Trevor Lawrence and previously in his assistant career with the Tigers helped develop Clemson’s receivers. That includes previously working with the likes of DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins, and Mike Williams who all have gone on to NFL success.
And, that definitely brings some credibility on Scott’s resume.
Still, when Bulls Kelly that phone call reaching out for both Swinney’s opinion and help in hiring Scott, that probably set it all to the new Bulls boss.
And four days after their ACC Title Game win, he was standing at a podium in Tampa.
USF officially hires Clemson coordinator Jeff Scott
The USF Bulls coaching search to replace Charlie Strong lasted only eight days and his replacement has a National Championship pedigree.
The school announced late Monday afternoon that they have hired Clemson offensive coordinator, Jeff Scott, to become their fifth head coach in program history:
Great Scott! We got our guy!
Jeff Scott named head coach of USF football.
— USF Football (@USFFootball) December 9, 2019
Scott, who actually shares the offensive leadership with Tony Elliott, will receive a five year deal to leave the Tigers and come to West Central Florida.
Bulls atheltic director Michael Kelly said in their statement about the hiring of Scott,
“Jeff is a very bright, enthusiastic and driven leader for our program and we are thrilled to welcome him to USF and back to Florida, where he was born and where he has recruited so well for Clemson for many years,” Kelly said.”
“He is a young and extremely gifted offensive mind, a developer of high-level talent and an elite national recruiter who brings the experience of having played an integral role from the beginning in helping to build one of the most successful programs in college football.
“We are thrilled that he and his wife, Sara, and their daughter, Savannah, are joining our Bulls family and will be part of the exciting future of USF football.”
As we wrote last night, Scott is Clemson through and through, as he played for the Tigers in the early 2000s for three years and returned to become a coach for the Tigers in 2008. Since then, he has been a receiver’s coach, recruiting coordinator, and now to co-offensive coordinator.
The Tigers, behind All-American QB Trevor Lawrence, just rolled through a second straight unbeaten season and a Saturday night 62-17 blowout win over Virginia in the ACC Title Game. The Tigers will play Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl on December 28th in one of the College Football playoff semi-finals.
Scott will reportedly stay and coach the Tigers in the CFP Playoff bid, as they attempt to repeat as National Champions.
Further, there’s some more that USF fans can be excited about: Scott’s successes with wide receivers. He has helped develop some great NFL prospects like DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins, and Mike Williams. He currently has one of the best groups in the country.
After years of the inconsistent offense, it appears that the Bulls leaders felt a change in philosphy was needed.
Scott tweeted this photo Monday evening with his daughter showing him signing an agreement with USF:
— Coach Jeff Scott (@coach_jeffscott) December 9, 2019
Scott will bring knowledge of coaching from Clemson, as well as his stint as a high school coach. His father Brad, was also a coach in college, spending time as an offensive coordinator himself at Florida State, then onto South Carolina, and settling at Clemson.