Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
Our Best Case/Worst Case scenarios continue now with South Florida, which seems to live out both extremes during the course of any one given year. The truth, as always, will lie somewhere in the middle.
Everything finally clicks this year.
Matt Grothe puts it all together as a senior in Mike Canales' new offense, slicing his interceptions down to single digits and compiling more than 4,000 all-purpose yards. The offensive line uses the first three weeks of cupcakes to round into form. The defense, led by George Selvie and newcomers like Sam Barrington, Jason Pierre-Paul and Ryne Giddins, is the most ferocious attack ever fielded under Jim Leavitt.
The Bulls ride into Tallahassee in Week 4 and steal the spear while taking down rival Florida State in a watershed moment. October arrives, but this time it's full of cheer, as South Florida beats Syracuse, Cincinnati, Pitt and West Virginia to equal its most Big East victories ever. At 8-0, the Bulls move into the Top 10 for the third straight year.
Just like two years ago, they then lose at Rutgers on a Thursday night. But rather than start another freefall, the team rebounds to win its final three, including a home victory over Miami.
The 11-1 season catapults the Bulls to the Sugar Bowl, where they face SEC runner-up Florida. Behind 400 yards from Grothe and four sacks of Tim Tebow from Selvie, South Florida completes the Big Three sweep. Grothe and Selvie are carried off the Superdome field by teammates. Jim Leavittt announces, "I'm going to Disney World," which isn't that big of a deal since he lives so close. But then he signs an endorsement deal with his favorite meal: Pepsi and Hershey bars.
Everything slips this year.
Grothe continues his improbably perfect string of throwing exactly 14 interceptions, and his positive production drops because of the shaky line and the lack of a running game. Selvie, whose numbers haven't been the same since the first five games of his sophomore year, gets contained by double teams again. The newcomers are too raw to make a big impact, and early injuries expose the youth and inexperience on the roster.
After a 3-0 start (not even the worst case can envision a loss in those games), the Bulls are thrashed in Tallahassee. October arrives and it's like Groundhog Day from the past two years. They beat Syracuse but lose to Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and West Virginia during the month, and November starts the same way with a loss at Rutgers.
The slide stops briefly with a win over Louisville, but then Miami invades Raymond James and completes the in-state sweep. South Florida closes the year by losing in the snow at Connecticut to finish 5-7, with only two FBS wins. In the final game, Leavitt head-butts a player and knocks himself unconscious. It's so cold that his forehead sticks to the helmet, and he's taken to the hospital that way.
Florida wins the national title and buys out of its 2010 game with the Bulls, saying it only wants to play competitive in-state teams.