Monday, 5 a.m.
Should the USF Bulls be ranked?
Better question: Are you prepared for the USF Bulls to be ranked?
They are 6-1, and they are one of the highest scoring teams in the nation. They are fun to watch with their star quarterback and their star running back and their star receiver. And, yes, you can make a fine argument that the Bulls have performed well enough to be included to the top 25 teams in America.
I mean, come on. Ole Miss is 3-3. Is that worthy of being in the top 25? Really? Was it the win over Wofford or the one over Memphis that impressed voters. LSU has lost twice. Auburn has lost twice. I'm not saying USF is a better team; I'm saying they've navigated the season better so far. Yeah, you can make a passionate argument
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that the Bulls deserve to be ranked, all right. In the Coaches' poll, only 25 points separate the Bulls (ranked 27th) from 25th-ranked Navyl. In the AP Poll, only 92 points separate the Bulls from No. 25 LSU.
Consider this: In most of the independent polls -- the ones that used to comprise the BCS rankings, the Bulls are in good shape. In both the Anderson-Hester poll and the Colley Matrix, the Bulls are 17th. In the Massey Rankings, they're 24th. In the Wolfe Rankings, they're 25th.
For a lot of teams, a 25th-place ranking comes with some disappointment. Do you really think LSU fans are slapping palms and chanting “Hey, we're No. 25.” Of course not. But for USF, being 25th would be an accomplishment. They haven't cracked the poll for five years. Getting into the rankings would be a nice bit of recognition. It would acknowledge that this is a team on the move.
But, really, wouldn't you prefer to see a Bulls' team with some staying power make it?
Let's be honest. If the Bulls had made the top 25 this week, a loss on the road to unranked Temple would knock them back out. If they made the top 25 next week with a victory, a loss to barely ranked Navy would knock them back out. Ah, but if the Bulls can win against both, then you're 8-1, and no one would argue that you don't belong.
The truth, however, is that the polls have never been kind to USF. They've flirted with being ranked in four separate seasons, but in none of them did they finish the season ranked. For the Bulls, that should be a goal.
Take 2007. The Bulls broke into the top 25 by beating then No. 17 Auburn on the road. Two weeks later, they beat No. 5 West Virginia. They hung up 64 on Central Florida and moved to No. 2.
And then the bottom fell out. USF lost three straight games – to Rutgers, to UConn, to Cincinnati – to drop out of the poll. They got back to No. 21, but giving up 56 to Oregon in the Sun Bowl ended all talk of polls.
In 2008, the Bulls were ranked for nine different weeks, climbing as high as No. 10. Then came consecutive losses to Louisville, Cincinnati and Rutgers.
In 2009, the Bulls started 5-0, and that got USF into the bottom reaches of the polls. Then came losses to Cincinnati and Louisville (the Bulls gave up 75 points in the losses).
USF skipped a year in the polls, then made it in 2011. They got as high as 16th in the AP poll, and 14th in the Coaches. They started 4-0, including a win over Notre Dame. But they finished the season by losing seven of their last eight under Skip Holtz. Since then, the poll has been something that USF can read about.
Look, if USF can remain hot, the polls will come around. The team still has to play Navy, and a pretty good Memphis team, and an improved UCF team. If they keep winning, there is a conference title, and a bowl game, waiting for the Bulls.
If the Bulls can get through that schedule with one loss, maybe none, they'll be ranked. They can move into the polls, and they can hang pictures, because they will be there to stay.
Isn't that better?