With an 8-1 record entering Thursday’s home conference game against Tulsa, USF football still controls its own destiny in regard to winning the AAC and making it to a New Year’s Six bowl game for the first time in school history.
For the Bulls, it’s simple — win out and they’re in both. A loss to either UCF or Tulsa and they’re not in.
Though the Golden Hurricanes — who currently sit in last place of the AAC with a 1-5 conference record — have performed below their preseason expectations, they still have the ability to spoil the Bulls’ postseason aspirations.
Tulsa’s only conference win of 2017 was a 45-17 triumph over Houston.
USF’s only conference loss, meanwhile, was a 28-24 loss to Houston on Oct. 28, the same team the Golden Hurricanes routed earlier that month.
“The thing we can’t do is look ahead I told them,” USF coach Charlie Strong said. “It’s a single-game elimination now. Each game is the championship game.”
A loss to Tulsa would ensure USF would be kept from reaching its first ever conference championship game even if they beat UCF on Black Friday.
“We have to get this game and take care of our business,” Strong said.
Senior linebacker and tackle leader Auggie Sanchez agreed.
"Every year, we've had a team meeting and we said our goal is a conference championship, and we've come up short every year," Sanchez said. "I think this year, there's a sense of urgency to say, 'Hey, we really want to get this accomplished.' We've got a lot of guys who've bought in, that want to get this accomplished. We are in control. We get to decide what we want to do with it."
Potential record breaking senior night for Sanchez, Flowers
For 23 USF players, Thursday’s game could be the last one they ever play in Raymond James Stadium if the Bulls’ don’t host the AAC championship game.
For Sanchez and quarterback Quinton Flowers, however, solid games could land them even further in the record books.
Sanchez, who’s a fifth-year senior, needs four more tackles to break USF's career tackles record that was set by Kawika Mitchell (367) in the 1999-02 seasons.
“I came here and when I got switched over to linebacker, I looked at the record and I (said), I wanted to achieve that record,” Sanchez said. “To be on the heels of breaking it is something special. To do it at home, in front of our fans and especially on senior night, it would be something really special.”
Flowers, who already holds the program record for rushing touchdowns (39), also will become only the sixth player in Football Bowl Subdivision history to register at least 60 passing and 40 rushing touchdowns in a career with a rushing touchdown Thursday.
Currently ranked second all-time in total offense with 10,519 yards, he’s only 356 yards shy of the breaking the Bulls' career record held by Matt Grothe in the 2006-09 seasons.
Free parking for students
Free parking is being offered to the first 400 students with carloads of at least four people at Thursday night’s football game.
The free parking is located in Lot 3P, which is off of N. Dale Mabry highway.