According to ESPN.com’s Mark Schlabach and Bruce Feldman, who project bowl matchups each week, USF could be back in the St. Petersburg Bowl for the second consecutive year.
One of the projected opponents is in-state rival UCF. USF, which has never lost to the Knights, ended its annual showdown with UCF last season.
There are seemingly three other bowl possibilities for USF: the International Bowl in Toronto, the PapaJohns.com Bowl in Birmingham, Ala., and the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte, N.C. The International Bowl pits the Big East against the Mid-American Conference, the PapaJohns.com Bowl has an SEC vs. Big East matchup and the Meineke Car Care Bowl sets up the Big East with the ACC.
The Bulls beat East Carolina 24-7 in the 2006 PapaJohns.com Bowl. USF defeated Memphis last year in the St. Petersburg Bowl.
To reach the Meineke Car Bowl, the Bulls will likely have to win their two remaining games against Miami and at Connecticut. If the Bulls split, they could end up in Birmingham, Canada, or even back in St. Petersburg squaring, depending on how Rutgers, Connecticut and West Virginia finish. Rutgers plays West Virginia on Dec. 5, while USF ends its season at Connecticut.
USF clinched bowl eligibility for the fifth consecutive year with the win against Louisville.
“It’s nice thing, but I’m not thinking about that,” said USF coach Jim Leavitt. “I’m thinking about playing good football. I’m not into all that other stuff. I’m into playing good football. We’re bowl eligible, (but) I don’t know if we’ll go to a bowl game. We have to play good football.”
Receivers step up
Still without leading wide receiver Carlton Mitchell, who’s sidelined with a high ankle sprain, the Bulls were looking for playmakers to step up in an offense that went stagnant against Rutgers the week before.
The receiving core made a considerable amount of plays in a 34-22 win against Louisville on Saturday, including junior A.J. Love’s career-high 121 receiving yards. It was Love’s first time reaching the century mark in his career.
“It feels good,” he said. “I’ve been working on that.”
Love caught passes of 37 and 45 yards, as well as two key third-down grabs on USF’s opening drive in the second half, which ended with a 20-yard touchdown run by quarterback B.J. Daniels.
Senior Jessie Hester and junior Dontavia Bogan combined for 10 catches. Bogan caught a 16-yard touchdown from Daniels on USF’s opening possession. Freshman Sterling Griffin also had four catches for 60 yards.
At Rutgers, the Bulls were held to 129 passing yards.Daniels delivered 304 passing yards Saturday, though.
“That’s what we talked about in our meetings this week,” said offensive coordinator Mike Canales. “(Guys) are going to have to make plays in some critical situations.”
Leavitt said there’s still no timetable for Mitchell’s return, which makes it even more important for others to get involved.
“That is important,” Leavitt said of different players stepping up to fill Mitchell’s void. “Carlton’s still down with an ankle (injury). Hopefully, he’ll be back next week. A.J. had a great game.”
Daniels named Big East Offensive Player of the Week
After gaining 445 yards of total offense against Louisville, Daniels was named the Big East Offensive Player of the Week, the league announced Monday.
Daniels rushed for 141 yards and passed for 304 yards, both career highs, and became the first player in school and Big East history to rush for 100 yards and pass for 300 yards in the same game.
Senior linebacker Kion Wilson, who had 12 tackles and two tackles for loss on Saturday, was named to the conference honor roll. Wilson has led the Bulls in tackles in each of the last five games.
Key players practice
USF’s defensive line, which has been decimated by injury recently, had several key players return to practice on Monday.
Defensive tackle Cory Grissom, who hasn’t played since the Syracuse game because of an ankle injury, returned to practice, Leavitt said.
Junior tackle Leslie Stirrups, who didn’t dress for Louisville because of a knee injury, also practiced, Leavitt said, as did junior nose tackle Terrell McClain, who left Saturday’s game with a neck injury.
The Bulls were so pressed on the defensive line Saturday that Leavitt had to burn freshman Anthony Hill’s redshirt to compensate for depth.
“He’s one of the freshman we didn’t want to play,” Leavitt said. “We wanted to redshirt (him) but we fealt like this was too important.”
“He did a good job. He played about a good 20 snaps.”
Additional reporting by Kerry Klecic