Whether USF’s season ends at Houston Saturday remains to be seen. All the signs and numbers point to the Bulls (8-2) being among the 56 best teams, but that might not be enough for USF to keep playing past the Cougars, win or lose.
“The home season may be done, but our season’s not over,” USF coach Jim Leavitt said. “I said in the locker room after the Bowling Green game that we have no chance to go to a bowl unless we beat Houston. That’s our only chance.”
A fixture in the ESPN Mid-Major Top 10, the Bulls are planted at No. 6 this week.
“Bulls deserve a bowl bid. Here’s hoping they get it,” the caption said.
The Sagarin Index, one of the seven computer rankings used in determining the BCS standings, plots USF at No. 34, a space back of Pittsburgh (8-2). USF cracked the top 25 of The New York Times’ computer poll last week, another one of the rankings used to determine the BCS, and this week, the Bulls moved up three spots.
In fact, if the BCS were extended to include all 117 Division I-A teams, USF would stand 29th, according to Rick Tellshow’s BCS at www.geocities.com/rtell/bcsc.html, which mimics the actual BCS. USF would probably be ranked higher, but it only has a 6-2 record in the eyes of the BCS since the Bulls beat two Division I-AA teams (Florida Atlantic and Charleston Southern).
USF is still in the bowl projections, as CNNSI.com’s Stewart Mandel continues to forecast the Bulls taking the Motor City Bowl’s vacant spot opposite Marshall, the No. 2 team from the Mid-American. The Motor City Bowl is slotted to have the MAC No. 2 and the Big 10 No. 7. But, unless both Wisconsin and Purdue win Saturday, there won’t be enough bowl-eligible teams from the Big 10. CBS.sportsline.com has already pulled USF from its bowl projections, placing Oklahoma State instead as the at-large team to fill the Motor City Bowl.
However, a defeat at Houston Saturday would probably deflate any chances the Bulls may have of going to any bowl game. The Cougars (4-6, 2-5 in Conference USA) also have bowl aspirations, but they need to win their final two games to become the fifth bowl-eligible team from C-USA. The conference has five bowl tie-ins (Liberty, GMAC, Houston, New Orleans and Hawaii).
USF pounded Houston a year ago, laying on a 45-6 thrashing at Raymond James Stadium on Homecoming. The Bulls compiled 445 yards of total offense, jumping out to a 31-0 lead by halftime.
“We beat Houston pretty bad,” Leavitt said. “And you know how we are after we’ve been beaten pretty bad. I promise you Houston will play its best game of the year. Each and every one of those players will remember a year ago.”
Even with a victory Saturday, the Bulls have an uphill climb to an at-large berth. The Pac-10 already has seven bowl-eligible teams with only six bowl tie-ins. The Big XII has already met its quota of eight bowl-eligible teams, with Missouri and Oklahoma State only needing one more victory to join the list. The MAC and WAC conferences are over their allotted bids with the potential to add one or two more teams to the at-large pool.
“What people will think of South Florida and how we’re looked at is totally out of my control as far as that goes,” Leavitt said.