(Today SB Nation has a package of stories about the zany 2007 college football season, including one about USF. Go read it!)
College football and history go hand in hand. It’s the foundation of the blueblood programs that are constantly at the top of the mountain. It’s a big reason that programs like Alabama, Ohio State, and Michigan can sustain success at the top, or come back from mediocrity so quickly.
Everyone wants a piece of history. Something to show off. Something to take pride in. The youngest of college football programs struggle with this, because the kind of self-sustaining history you see at the top took the better part of a century to form. So they have to compensate by taking pride in whatever small victories they can. Unfortunately, sometimes these small victories are, overall, meaningless.
Case in point: the USF Bulls and 2007
It was our 11th season playing football at any level, the third season in the Big East. After the expected week one rollover of Elon, the Bulls walked into Jordan-Hare and shocked #17 Auburn in overtime. Two weeks later, we had our first-ever ranking. A week after that, we stunned the college football world by upending #5 West Virginia in front of a then-record crowd of 67,000+ at Raymond James Stadium. Fast forward another two weeks to a massive blowout win vs UCF and the Bulls were ranked #2 in the nation.
Now, if you’re talking to any USF fan from that time, that’s where the season ended. Guys, USF was ranked #2 in the nation in 2007! It seems to be the single biggest source of pride to many USF fans. A program in its 11th year of existence was ranked second overall in the college football world.
Too bad that what followed was a sharp drop off a cliff. Three straight losses to Rutgers, UConn, and Cincinnati. The 2007 Bulls would eventually lose to Oregon in the Sun Bowl and end the season unranked.
The staff realized the issue awhile ago during the Ultimate USF Football Player Tournament. Our readers believe that Matt Grothe, the ringleader of that “magical” 2007 season, is the best player we’ve ever had. Overall, 8,669 passing yards, 52 touchdowns, and 10,875 overall yards over his three-plus seasons as quarterback for the Bulls. He was a good player; nobody is debating that. A fan favorite.
Now compare him to Quinton Flowers. 5,213 passing yards, 46 touchdowns, and 7,807 total yards over basically two years (his freshman stats account for less than 200 yards). Now a senior, he’s poised to become the best quarterback in USF history, but he’s not always respected as potentially the best in school history.
Here’s a list of records Q has or is poised to break:
- First ever 10-win season in school history (because the 2007 team only won nine)
- Crushed Grothe’s QB rushing record in only two seasons
- 200 rushing yards away from surpassing Andre Hall
- 1,100 rushing yards makes him the best rusher in school history
- Only two rushing touchdowns ties the USF career rushing TD record
He’ll probably fall short of Grothe and B.J. Daniels in passing yards (he’d need over 3,000 this season), but he’s probably going to break the record for passing TDs (52, Flowers has 46). Barring an absolute meltdown, he’ll certainly have fewer interceptions (Grothe 44, Daniels 39, Flowers 17).
It’s an example of the bigger issue: many USF fans have romanticized that 2007 season and players from that team into a legend when we’re watching an even better team right now. 2007 was an extremely high peak, but the fall was just as spectacular. Sure, the 2016 team didn’t knock off FSU and lost that Temple game, but they won all the games they were supposed to win. They were consistent: explosive, unstoppable offense, and a defense about as stout as wet tissue paper. They also won 11 games and finished the season ranked.
Why it’s time to stop harping on about 2007
Don’t you remember how crazy 2007 was? Nine different teams were ranked #2 in that 2007 season: LSU, USC, California(!), USF, Boston College(!!), Oregon, Kansas(!!!), West Virginia, and Georgia. Six of those teams broke 10 wins. USF did not. In fact, they barely finished in the upper half of their conference.
Sure, they knocked off ranked Auburn and West Virginia, two regular powerhouses in college football (and I will concede that the West Virginia game was the best home game in USF history). But they also lost to teams they should beaten comfortably. No, I don’t care about “illegal forward propulsion,” USF should have been leading by enough points for that play to be irrelevant (YEA, I SAID IT). As Jamie pointed out in 2014, USF was #11 in F+ and Rutgers was #31. If that team was really that good, they should never have stumbled as badly as they did over that three-game stretch.
It’s a feel-good moment in the short history of USF football, but that #2 peak lasted one week, and it happened almost a decade ago (feel old yet?). I will never say that 2007 team wasn’t good, but they weren’t immortal giants. You don’t hear people banging on about the fact that USF reached #10 in 2008, before falling straight back off the cliff. What makes 2007 any different?
It’s one thing to look at the past during dark times, but USF isn’t in those dark times anymore. Current and new students don’t want to hear about 2007 anymore. It has no impact on 2017. The players have graduated, the coaches have left, and the crowds have thinned. (Related: the students can’t recreate the 2007 attendance numbers by themselves. Go. To. The. Games.)
It’s time to let 2007 sleep. Harp on the present, harp on the future. But it’s time to stop harping on the past.