When I was in college in the mid and late 80’s, Boise State was a Divisoin I-AA school. Division I-AA doesn’t exist anymore. They challenged for a BCS bowl game last season and beat Oklahoma in the most exciting game of the bowl season. The University of South Florida Bulls didn’t exist in the 1980’s or for most of the 1990’s either for that matter. In fact, the BCS and the USF Bulls were born right about the same time, just a couple years before the 21st century began. In their 11th year in existence, they are currently ranked #2 in the country, even though many television talking heads still aren’t running with the Bulls. Those talking heads are behind the changing times of parity in college football. The good talent coming out of high school was spread mainly to those schools with the richest traditions, but now it is spread much more widely.
Brigham Young University won the national title in 1984 because they won all their games, even though I don’t think anyone thought they could survive and compete in any of the top conferences. The days of just winning all of your games making you the top in the nation are long gone. As technology has increased exponentially, so has the complexity of deciding the top teams that will ultimately play in the title game.
Florida has been the hotbed for football talent for decades and the USF Bulls have been the recipient of that talent that either didn’t get their shot at UF, FSU, Miami or all of the other bigger tradition schools trying to “steal” the Sunshine State’s talent. Some just wanted to play close to home. Tampa isn’t a bad place to call “home” and there isn’t a great need to leave if you don’t have to, so the St. Petersburg native Jim Leavitt, the Bulls one and only head coach, has been able to sell the benefits of staying home and building a legacy right here in front of your family. And he has the credibility for recruits to believe what he says, since he turned down big money for the big time in Tuscaloosa a couple years back when he was and his staff were still recruiting out of trailers.
A few weeks ago I was believing that they were possibly a top 20 team as they hit #18, but the crazy upsets all over the country that vaulted USF to #6 had me shaking my head a little bit. But USC, the continuously ranked #1 team in the nation (at least it seemed like it) lost to Stanford, who was only a 41 point underdog. And then LSU loses in triple overtime to an unranked team, while USF beat the tar out of the University of Central Florida 64-12 (UCF almost beat Texas a few weeks back). So when the first BCS rankings came out with the Bulls at #2 it wasn’t surprising and, in fact, feels very deserving. The Bulls can only beat the teams on its schedule, which included #5 West Virginia and a road win at Auburn, who has made their way back into the rankings.
Times do change, but it looks like cellphones personal computers and the USF Bulls are here to stay!
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