It looks like ESPN wants you to look outside the traditional box when looking for College Football Playoff sleepers for the 2017 season.
Like, really outside. “Non Power-5” team kind of outside.
In an article for ESPN Insider (subscription required), ESPN’s K.C. Joyner named South Florida — the new home of Charlie Strong — as a sleeper team for the 2017 version of the College Football Playoff.
Joyner’s argument for the Bulls centers around two major things: the return of star quarterback Quinton Flowers and a relatively easy schedule for the 2017 season. Flowers, who will be a senior in 2017, was one of the more underrated players of 2016. While leading South Florida to an 11-2 record, Flowers threw for 2,812 yard and rushed for another 1,530 yards. He scored 42 total touchdowns on the season.
The schedule is another thing, as there is no huge out-of-conference game this year for the Bulls. One of their two losses in 2016 was a 55-35 defeat to Florida State, but a 2017 out-of-conference slate of Illinois, Stony Brook, San Jose State, and UMass means that South Florida should be able to pull off the sweep in those games.
Another plus? South Florida’s two toughest games of 2017 — Houston and Temple — will both be at home. It will probably take an undefeated record for South Florida to get consideration for the Playoff, but they definitely have a shot with their talent, coaching, and schedule.