(via USF Communications) - Led by senior quarterback Quinton Flowers (Miami), the reigning American Conference Offensive Player of the Year, and returning 16 starters and eight national awards candidates, the USF football team was named by conference media on Tuesday as a heavy favorite to claim the 2017 American Athletic Conference championship.
Conference media gave USF 26 votes to win the 2017 American Conference championship. Houston (2), Memphis (1) and Navy (1) also received votes in the media poll.
The Bulls were favored to win the American East Division, getting all 30 first place votes in the division and tallying 180 points in the poll. UCF was picked second with 126 points and was followed by Temple (119), Cincinnati (100), ECU (63) and UConn (42). The media selected Memphis as the favorite to win the West Division, giving the Tigers 22 first place votes and 169 points. Houston (6 first place votes, 137 points), Navy (1, 128), Tulsa (1, 102), SMU (64) and Tulane (30) rounded out the West poll.
Entering its 21st season playing football, USF has been ranked in the Top 25 by every preseason college football publication and is expected to begin the 2017 season in the AP and Coaches Polls for just the second time in program history and first since 2008. The Bulls finished No. 19 in both polls in 2016 following an 11-2 season and Birmingham Bowl victory over South Carolina. USF has never won a conference championship in football.
Flowers is expected to be a candidate for numerous national awards as he heads into his senior season among seven starters returning from a school-record shattering 2016 USF offense that ranked fourth in the nation scoring 43.8 points per game and 11th with 511.5 yards per game.
Flowers set USF season records rushing for 1,530 yards and 18 touchdowns, accounting for 4,342 total yards and logging 42 total touchdowns. He completed 62.5 percent of his passes for 2,812 yards and 24 touchdowns against just eight interceptions. He ranked 10th in the nation in total offense per game (334.0 ypg) in 2016. He joined 2016 Heisman Trophy and Maxwell Award winner Lamar Jackson (Louisville) as the only two players in college football to throw for over 2,000 yards and run for over 1,500 yards last year, with Flowers becoming the first player in state of Florida FBS history to break the 2,000/1,000 marks.
USF opens the 2017 on Sat., Aug. 26 with a 7:30 p.m. (ET) kick at San Jose State. The Bulls play the first of seven home games on Sat., Sept. 2 when they take on Stony Brook in a 4 p.m. kick at Raymond James Stadium.