Will USF football open 2008 ranked?
So, you ask in your comments, will USF be ranked when the major preseason polls come out next summer? It's less of a certainty after the Bulls' bowl loss, but seems likely, given how much USF returns on offense. Rivals.com has offered up its early preseason top 25, with the Bulls ranked 22nd, joining No. 7 West Virginia as the only Big East teams on the list.
The question Rivals asks -- and a major question for the 2008 Bulls -- is how well they can replace cornerbacks Mike Jenkins and Trae Williams, whose coverage skills allowed USF to be aggressive and creative with the rest of the defense. With Rutgers' Ray Rice leaving, USF could be picked as high as second in the league coaches' preseason Big East rankings; if Cincy's Ben Mauk can get another year of eligibility, the Bearcats would be right there as well. Today, right now, where do you think USF opens next season, in the national rankings and the Big East pecking order?
(And yes, I'm well aware of the basketball game tonight and will be blogging live from USF-Pitt.)
-- Should USF still be ranked now? Three AP balloters think so, though I only have the occasional lunch with one of them: The Times' Brian Landman, our FSU writer, ranked USF 25th, one spot behind Oregon, making the argument that you rank your final poll based on an entire season's body of work, not just the bowls. Steve Conroy of the Boston Herald put USF 25th (Oregon 21st), and nobody loves the Bulls like Steve Batterson of the Quad City Times in Iowa. He had USF 23rd, five spots below the Ducks. All the final AP ballots can be found here.
-- ESPN.com's Mark Schlabach has his early top 25 for 2008, but USF isn't there. West Virginia's the top Big East team at No. 14, with Pittsburgh -- yes, Pittsburgh -- No. 22.
-- No ranking, but the Sporting News' Matt Hayes has the USF-Kansas game in Tampa as one of the top eight nonconference games to watch.