TAMPA — It’s always a big deal when the Miami Hurricanes come to town. But for a dozen players on the University of South Florida Bulls, Saturday’s visit to Raymond James Stadium by No. 15-ranked UM carries added significance.
They are the Miami-area natives, the guys who grew up dreaming about playing for the Hurricanes. Now UM is the opponent.
“Every Saturday, we would go to the Hurricane games after our little-league football games,’’ USF senior wide receiver Derrick Hopkins said. “The Canes were a big part of our lives as kids. I lived about 15 minutes from the Orange Bowl. I loved that place.
“I was a Hurricane fan, all the way, but my loyalty is with USF now. But for those of us from Miami, of course this is a huge game. You grow up there and you know what it’s like. You’re bonded. You kind of talk the same language. Miami kids stick together.’’
It’s a similar feeling for junior defensive tackle Todd Chandler.
“The Miami guys don’t separate ourselves from the team, but we connect because we know what’s down there,’’ Chandler said. “Miami is the football capital. We prove that every year. The best football is played in Miami.
“Pretty much, it’s always the same. You root for the Hurricanes and want to play on that team one day. But for us, now the special factor is getting a chance to beat the Hurricanes.’’
USF coach Willie Taggart, who played at Bradenton Manatee High, always admired the Hurricanes and many of their players. Did he ever visualize himself playing at UM?
“Nope!’’ Taggart said with conviction. “Not at all. Growing up, I was a Florida State fan. I liked some of their players and the way they played. But they were the enemy because they played against Florida State.’’
The 10th anniversary of USF’s only appearance on College GameDay — a 2003 game at Army — will be commemorated at 8:50 a.m. Saturday on ESPN’s SportsCenter, with the segment to replay on SportsCenter throughout the morning. It’s featured on the 10-for-10 segment, which looks at 10 things to know about the weekly slate of college football.
On Sept. 27, 2003, USF won at Army 28-0 in its Conference USA opener. But for the only time in College GameDay history, the show was cancelled on-site, due to heavy rain, wind and lightning. ESPN’s Lee Corso planned to wear the USF Bulls head during his picks segment, but never got the opportunity because the show was washed out.
USF’s Rocky the Bull mascot, which literally lost its head during the weather melee, was forced to watch from the sideline without the Bulls head.
USF football is a 20-point underdog Saturday against Miami. If the line doesn’t move, that would tie for the program’s biggest home underdog status. No. 9-ranked Louisville was a 20-point favorite in the 2005 inaugural Big East Conference game for both teams. USF pulled the upset, 45-14, and Sports Illustrated killed its plans for a story on Louisville. On the road, USF’s underdog point-spread record was 29 points at Louisville in 2004 (USF lost 41-9). …Men’s golf sophomore Chase Koepka captured his first individual tournament title at the Rees Jones Collegiate Invitational at Daufuskie Island, S.C. Koepka had a final-round 74 and finished at 4-under-par, four shots ahead of UNC Wilmington’s Payne McLeod. As a team, USF tied for second place. …Men’s soccer opens American Athletic Conference play on Friday night when Connecticut visits Corbett Stadium at 7:30. Meanwhile, women’s soccer and volleyball each begin AAC play on Friday night at UCF.