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Bulls look to finish what they've started

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

Rising up in the polls isn't new for South Florida.

Staying there would be, however.

The Bulls recognize this reality, which is why they're trying to stay focused after last Friday's 37-34 win over Kansas. That victory lifted them to 3-0 and No. 12 in the Associated Press Top 25.

"It's early right now," coach Jim Leavitt said after the game. "I don't think one game makes a season. Our players have to put this in perspective.

"Last year, we got going a little bit, then we dropped off."

South Florida ascended all the way to No. 2 in the poll last season after starting off 6-0 with wins over West Virginia and Auburn. But the rarified-air residence lasted only a week, as it immediately fell at Rutgers and spiraled into a three-game losing streak.

"Last year, I think it became a job," defensive end George Selvie said. "Nobody was holding anything back against Auburn and West Virginia. But then it became a job. We need to make sure we go out there and have fun."

A great opportunity awaits. Right now, the Bulls aren't scheduled to face another ranked team until the season finale at West Virginia, a team they've beaten two years in a row. They could be favored in every game until then. The toughest game before West Virginia looks like an Oct. 30 date at Cincinnati, but the Bearcats are debuting a new starting quarterback this week.

So the Bulls mostly need to focus on themselves. While they've been strong on both sides of the ball -- ranking 13th nationally in total offense and 25th in total defense -- they've been prone to occasional lapses that doomed them in the past. Against Central Florida, they gave away a two-touchdown lead late before winning in overtime. Against Kansas, they fell behind 20-3 before rallying.

"We can't have that first half replayed," safety Nate Allen said. "It was like we weren't all here or something. We can't do that down the road or we might get beat. We've still got a lot of improvement to make."

That may be the biggest difference between this year's South Florida and last year's. The Bulls see their current rise as the beginning of the journey, not the destination.