What Was The Biggest Win In USF Football History?

SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 03: Dayne Crist #10 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish is pressured by Ryne Giddins #97 of the University of South Florida Bulls as Taylor Dever #75 tries to block at Notre Dame Stadium on September 3, 2011 in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Last week's win over Notre Dame begs the question -- was it the biggest in USF history? Bulls fans can't seem to settle on just one, and you probably won't agree with this list, either. But here it is anyway. Let the arguing begin!

Over on Voodoo Five, we are celebrating the 10th anniversary of USF's first landmark victory, a 35-26 win over Pittsburgh on September 8, 2001. Every fan of the South Florida Bulls has a favorite win among the several marquee games that USF has claimed in the last decade. If you asked a dozen fans to rank them, everyone would probably pick the same games, but in a dozen different orders.

I had such a hard time making up my own list that I resorted to the only way I really know how to compare things -- with numbers. The Bulls have eight generally agreed-upon marquee wins in their history (Pittsburgh in 2001, Louisville in 2005, West Virginia in 2006 and 2007, Auburn in 2007, Florida State in 2009, Miami last year, and Notre Dame last week), so I rated them on a variety of factors, each scored on a 1-to-10 scale. Up to five bonus points were awarded for road wins, depending on how hostile the environment was. I'll explain everything else as we go along.

8. USF 45, LOUISVILLE 14 (SEPTEMBER 24, 2005)

Pregame Hype: 5
Size of Upset: 5
Opponent Prestige: 6
Decisiveness: 9
Local Impact: 4
National Attention: 3
Impact On Program: 3
Road Bonus: 0
TOTAL SCORE: 35 points

USF's first-ever win over a ranked opponent was also their first-ever game in the Big East. Louisville came into the game ranked #9 in the country, but they were whipsawed by a package of plays that took full advantage of Amarri Jackson's unique talents. He caught one long pass for 57 yards, ran for two touchdowns on reverses, and threw a touchdown pass to Derek Carter that gave the Bulls a ridiculous 38-7 lead in the third quarter. Chad Simpson ran a kickoff back for a touchdown and Andre Hall also scored twice. Even though the Cardinals outgained the Bulls by over 100 yards, they killed themselves with 15 penalties and were never in the game. USF actually left points on the field, as hard as that is to believe -- they got stuffed at the goal line late in the game trying to break 50.

7. USF 35, PITTSBURGH 26 (SEPTEMBER 8, 2001)

Pregame Hype: 3
Size of Upset: 9
Opponent Prestige: 3
Decisiveness: 7
Local Impact: 6
National Attention: 3
Impact On Program: 6
Road Bonus: 1
TOTAL SCORE: 37 points

If we were doing a list of the biggest upsets in school history, this would probably be #1. But aside from the shock value of the game, it doesn't quite measure up to some of its contemporaries. The Bulls were in their second game ever as a full FBS member, and they flat-out handled the Panthers at Heinz Field. USF never trailed, held a 28-7 lead in the third quarter, and calmly executed down the stretch to put the game out of reach.

6. USF 24, WEST VIRGINIA 19 (SEPTEMBER 25, 2006)

Pregame Hype: 4
Size of Upset: 8
Opponent Prestige: 7
Decisiveness: 6
Local Impact: 4
National Attention: 5
Impact On Program: 4
Road Bonus: 2
TOTAL SCORE: 40 points

This game has become totally overshadowed by USF's win over the Mountaineers the following year, which had an intense level of buildup. In 2006, though, the win came out of nowhere. I was so relatively disinterested in this game that I didn't even watch it live -- I had family in town and I took them around Dallas before they had to go back to the airport. It was at least two hours after the game when I found out the Bulls had knocked off their second top-ten opponent in as many years. USF's defense collected four turnovers and held West Virginia's dynamic duo of Pat White and Steve Slaton to a total of 60 yards rushing. George Selvie ran a fumble back for a touchdown and Ean Randolph scored on a nifty catch-and-run in the third quarter that gave the Bulls a 21-12 lead. All of which I watched on my DVR the next day.

5. USF 23, MIAMI 20 (NOVEMBER 27, 2010)

Pregame Hype: 6
Size of Upset: 8
Opponent Prestige: 6
Decisiveness: 4
Local Impact: 7
National Attention: 6
Impact On Program: 6
Road Bonus: 1
TOTAL SCORE: 44 points

Missed this one, too, flying back from Tampa. I "watched" the end of this game on my phone while driving away from the airport (not recommended) and then running errands. Expectations were pretty low going into this game. USF wasn't as talented as they had been the year before, when the Hurricanes whipped them in Tampa, 31-10. Then B.J. Daniels got hurt just before halftime and Bobby Eveld, a true freshman, came on at quarterback to help lead the Bulls to an overtime win. (Helped greatly by Jacory Harris throwing an interception with five seconds left in regulation and his team in field-goal range.) The impact of this game was a bit muted, though, because Miami had been down for several years, and head coach Randy Shannon was fired by the end of the day.

4. USF 21, WEST VIRGINIA 13 (SEPTEMBER 28, 2007)

Pregame Hype: 10
Size of Upset: 4
Opponent Prestige: 8
Decisiveness: 6
Local Impact: 10
National Attention: 7
Impact On Program: 8
Road Bonus: 0
TOTAL SCORE: 53 points

This game was especially important for proving what kind of atmosphere USF could potentially have for a big home game. It was hyped up for several weeks, and became the Bulls' first-ever home sellout. Once again the Bulls kept White (who was knocked out of the game in the third quarter), Slaton, and hotshot freshman Noel Devine under wraps. Ben Moffitt had the game of his life in the game of his life, intercepting two passes and running one back for a touchdown. All in all, the Bulls' defense forced six turnovers and turned away three fourth-down conversion attempts. Even though West Virginia outgained the Bulls 437-274, USF's offense basically shut it down once they took a 21-6 lead in the third quarter.

3. USF 17, FLORIDA STATE 7 (SEPTEMBER 26, 2009)

Pregame Hype: 8
Size of Upset: 7
Opponent Prestige: 8
Decisiveness: 7
Local Impact: 10
National Attention: 6
Impact On Program: 7
Road Bonus: 3
TOTAL SCORE: 56 points

The only game on the list to inspire someone in the USF athletic department to put up a wildly premature "Big 4" billboard at the I-275/I-4 interchange without telling Jim Leavitt or anyone else. Even though Florida State hadn't been quite the same as they had been in the 1980s and 1990s, it was still USF's first win over one of the state's three dominant programs. And it was no fluke, especially on defense. The Bulls held the Seminoles to 19 yards rushing, sacked Christian Ponder five times, and recovered four fumbles, all legitimately forced by a defensive unit that physically pounded on the FSU offense all afternoon. Daniels, in his first college start, only completed 8 of 21 passes, but he threw two touchdown passes and also added 126 yards rushing. One thing holding down the bonus for a road win -- over 10,000 Bulls fans found their way into Doak Campbell Stadium and often out-shouted the home supporters.

2. USF 23, NOTRE DAME 20 (SEPTEMBER 3, 2011)

Pregame Hype: 10
Size of Upset: 8
Opponent Prestige: 10
Decisiveness: 2
Local Impact: 9
National Attention: 8
Impact On Program: 7
Road Bonus: 4
TOTAL SCORE: 58 points

On paper, this win shouldn't have even happened. Notre Dame outgained the Bulls 508-254 and held the Bulls to 3.5 yards per play and a miserable 2-for-14 on third down. And yet they blew the game with five killer turnovers, including one that Kayvon Webster returned 96 yards for a touchdown to open the scoring. Throw in the two long weather delays and Brian Kelly's sideline antics and this was easily the most surreal game in USF history. (The second-most surreal game was probably a road trip to Cumberland in 1997, where the field was completely dead, all the bleachers were on one sideline, and one USF extra point landed in someone's front yard and they had to stand up from their folding chair and throw the ball back on the field... but I digress.) The Irish basically gave the game away and USF was nice enough to accept the gift. If the Bulls had won more decisively, this would have ended up #1 on my list. But instead...

2. USF 26, AUBURN 23 (SEPTEMBER 8, 2007)

Pregame Hype: 9
Size of Upset: 7
Opponent Prestige: 9
Decisiveness: 5
Local Impact: 9
National Attention: 7
Impact On Program: 8
Road Bonus: 5
TOTAL SCORE: 59 points

It's hard to beat going on the road on a Saturday night into an SEC stadium with 87,000 people in it and pulling out a win. The year before, Auburn had beaten top-ranked Florida on a Saturday night at home, who rebounded to win the BCS championship. So how could USF possibly face that gauntlet and come out victorious? Actually, it wasn't as close as the score indicated. The Bulls outgained the Tigers 319-290, collected five turnovers, and established themselves in the game early with two touchdown drives. If not for Delbert Alvarado's four missed field goals, USF wins by double digits, and we never get the famous overtime winner from Matt Grothe to Jessie Hester. Actually, maybe all those misses were a blessing in disguise, because the Bulls got even more attention and bang for their buck thanks to the overtime drama.

So anyway, there's my list. Let the controversy begin!

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