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National magazines project USF Bulls as conference bottom feeder ... again

The outlook isn’t much rosier for Florida or Florida State.
Three of the nation's most prominent preseason magazines project USF coach Jeff Scott's team to improve in 2022, but only modestly.
Three of the nation's most prominent preseason magazines project USF coach Jeff Scott's team to improve in 2022, but only modestly. [ MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE | Times ]
Published Jul. 5|Updated Jul. 5

At least one college football tradition remains untarnished by the sport’s staggering upheaval.

The glossy, bloated preseason magazines have arrived on newsstands. And within their sleek pages, another newer tradition has been upheld.

Once again, all project USF to remain near the American Athletic Conference basement in 2022.

The three most prominent publications currently available — Athlon Sports, Lindy’s and Phil Steele’s voluminous 2022 preview — all project USF to finish ninth in the 11-team league. Athlon Sports ranks the Bulls 100th of all Division I-A teams, while Lindy’s ranks them 102nd.

Lindy’s, however, makes no mention of new Bulls quarterback Gerry Bohanon, a heralded Baylor transfer who joined the Bulls after spring practice.

“They’re going to improve and still be bad overall this season, but the depth is coming along,” an unnamed opposing AAC assistant coach tells Athlon Sports. “They just have to keep recruiting and try to keep their guys from going to the (NCAA transfer) portal.”

The general outlook isn’t much brighter for most of the state’s other prominent programs. Only Miami, currently enjoying a perceived recruiting bonanza under new coach Mario Cristobal, is considered a preseason top-20 program by the magazines. Steele has the Hurricanes 12th in his preseason top 40; Lindy’s and Athlon rank them 14th and 20th, respectively.

On the flip side for USF, sophomore Brian Battie — who led the nation with three kick-return touchdowns (including two 100-yarders in the same game) last season — is a first-team preseason All-American according to Athlon and Steele. Moreover, both magazines predict USF to improve in coach Jeff Scott’s third season.

Problem is, “improve” is a relative term. Athlon projects USF to finish 4-8, which would double its 2021 victory total. So does Steele, whose team forecasts have been gauged the most accurate by over the last 27 years.

“They’ll have three tough non-conf games (Brigham Young, Florida, Louisville) and face each of the top four teams of the AAC,” Steele writes, “but the rebuild continues and they should at least double last year’s win total and that means they will flirt with bowl eligibility while pointing to year four.”

Other USF high spots: Battie and veteran linebacker Antonio Grier are pegged preseason first-team All-AAC picks by Athlon and Steele. Both magazines also have receiver Xavier Weaver as a second-team selection.

Lindy’s, which has no return specialists on its preseason All-America team, lists Battie as the nation’s No. 4 all-purpose player. Senior left tackle Donovan Jennings — a Gaither High alumnus — is the magazine’s No. 6 NFL draft prospect (albeit as a guard).

Early forecast

A look at where three prominent preseason college football publications rank the state’s most prominent teams nationally:

School Athlon Sports Lindy's Phil Steele
Florida 33 31 32
FSU 36 40 60
Miami 20 14 12
UCF 45 37 17
USF 100 102 n/a*
* Steele's projections extend only to the top 60 teams

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