The only way in which Alabama Football and the South Florida Bulls are alike is both teams being 1-1 this season. South Florida winning as much as 50% of its games is a rarity, at any point of any season.
The South Florida football program is in its 24th season, having begun in 2000. The first three seasons were at the level now defined as the FCS. In the program’s first 10 seasons, under Head Coach Jim Leavitt, the Bulls had only one losing season. Leavitt’s record was 75-44 and he led the Bulls to four bowl games.
Alabama and South Florida have played once, in the opening game for both teams of the 2003 season. The Crimson Tide won 40-17. At that point, Jim Leavitt’s office was in a trailer. When the 2003 season ended South Florida had three more wins than the four wins the 2003 Crimson Tide achieved.
South Florida has had four head coaches since Leavitt (not counting interim coaches) and none have had much success. In three seasons (2017-2019) Charlie Strong had the best winning percentage with a 21-16 record. In four seasons before Strong, Willie Taggert’s record was 24-25. Skip Holtz did three seasons before Taggert and ended his USF career at 16-21. Jeff Scott followed Strong in the 2020 season. Scott’s three-season USF record was 4-26.
USF has a new head coach. It is Alex Golesh. Before getting his first head coaching job, Golesh was an offensive coordinator and tight ends coach for Josh Heupel at UCF and Tennessee. The 2023 USF offense mimics the Tennessee offense that gave the Alabama football defense so much trouble last season. Of course, the USF offensive roster is not equal to Tennessee’s 2022 roster.
Golesh recently said he looks forward to the Alabama game “as a measuring stick.” So far his head coaching career can be measured by a 41-24 loss to Western Kentucky and a 38-24 win over Florida A&M.
In the four seasons prior to Golesh’s first in Tampa, USF’s record was 8-37.
Alabama Football Advantages
The 2023 USF Bulls have two glaring weaknesses. They are No. 132 in the FBS in penalty yards and tied for No. 130 in sacks allowed. Other Crimson Tide advantages are too many to mention. An added benefit is the game will provide some prep for playing the Vols in October.
Note: USF coaching records provided by Sports Reference
One Alabama football historical record will be set on Saturday. Without actually doing any research, I’m confident it will be the first time Alabama’s opposing head coach was born in Russia. Although he did not grow up there, Golesh was born in Moscow.