4. South Florida
South Florida’s advantages for a new power conference lie mostly in its location. The state of Florida is a hotbed for high school recruits nationwide and is also highly populated, and South Florida’s central position in the state in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area (despite the university’s name) automatically makes the football program a positive addition.
The program was formed just in 1997 and played in the Conference USA and Big East for a few years before helping form the American in 2013.
The Bulls’ struggles on the field keep them from being higher on this list. The team finished 6-6 and played Alabama tough earlier this season, famously resulting in Tide head coach Nick Saban benching the team’s star quarterback Jaden Milroe, and igniting the team for the rest of the game, and arguably, the rest of the season.
That’s about as much as South Florida can claim in recent years. The Bulls haven’t finished with a winning record since 2018. Back-to-back seasons in 2016 and 2017 resulted in a combined 23-4 record under Willie Taggart and then Charlie Strong, including the 2016 American championship and a bowl win against South Carolina with Taggart before he departed for Oregon. Both of those Bulls teams finished ranked in the AP Top 25.
Clearly, the cupboard isn’t bare in Tampa, and the Bulls hope to emulate their cross-state rival Central Florida with a move to a power conference. If the ACC loses its top programs sooner than expected, look for South Florida to be one of the league’s first additions.