Record: 5-7, 1-6 Big East
The season began with plenty of promise -- an opening win over Notre Dame and a climb to No. 16 in the national standings after a 4-0 start. But that was yet another mirage, a soft start based on wins over Ball State, Florida A&M and UTEP. Once league began play on a Thursday night in Pittsburgh, the Bulls' fate was sealed. This is a team that simply falls back into old habits. They can win big nonconference games, but once they start in the Big East, all bets are off.
Still, the Bulls have never had a season quite like this. They finished with their first losing season as members of the Big East, worst league record and missed a bowl game for the first time since joining the league in 2005. This was a team that lacked discipline, and simply could not put the opposition away. Five games were decided by six points or fewer. Three of them came down to the fourth quarter.
There were breakdowns in all three phases of the team in all those close games -- special teams, offense and defense each shared a part in this disappointment of a season. Year 2 under a new coach is supposed to bring better results, but USF took a clear step backward under Skip Holtz.
Offensive MVP: B.J. Daniels, QB. Take a look at this offense, and find somebody else. Everybody was inconsistent. Maybe running back Darrell Scott, who had 814 yards, but he was not really consistent enough and shared the load with Demetris Murray. Nobody was stellar on this unit this season. Daniels did throw for a career-high 2,604 yards and had two 100-yard rushing games.
Defensive MVP: DeDe Lattimore, LB. Lattimore really turned up his play in the second half of the season, and finished with seven sacks and 13 tackles for loss on a defense that started to get after the quarterback late in the season. He also led the team with 94 tackles and had two forced fumbles.
Turning Point: Losing to UConn 16-10. That was a game the Bulls really had no business losing when you consider the talent and the circumstances. The game planning did not do enough to take advantage of UConn's weakness in the secondary, and USF was miserable inside the red zone. The Bulls only won one game after that.
What's next: A long offseason. Holtz is going to have to re-evaluate what went wrong, and figure out how to get the most out of Daniels, who still is mistake-prone and didn't progress as much as anticipated. He has to instill a tougher mentality on this team that will allow it to win the close games.