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All eyes on USF

The USF football team is filling out its Christmas list early this year. Items on the list include the Motor City Bowl, the Hawaii Bowl and the Independence Bowl.

It is one thing to fill out the list, but something entirely different to receive what is on it.

Does USF have what it takes to make it to a bowl? And if so, what makes a team a good bowl participant?

Murray Cape, GMAC bowl scout, and Craig Stover, Motor City Bowl representative, both attended Saturday’s game against Bowling Green and had conflicting views on what makes a good bowl team.

One opinion revolved around a team’s composure.

“They have got to perform well, they have to operate like a professional team, they have to look good, dress good, play good,” said Cape. “All those qualities go into making a good football team.”

These seem like reasonable things to look for when attending a prospective bowl participant’s game, but Stover seemed to think it was a little more political than that.

“Whoever gets picked for any bowl, there are many different reasons why they’re picked — their alliances they have with different conferences, and of course their record,” said Stover.

Both seem to be right, since USF’s bowl participation depends on open spots, and to win those open spots, they have to impress the ones making the selection. Without conference membership, the Bulls are hoping for a void in the bowl-eligible teams, and their performance throughout the season will hopefully make an impression on those who pick the bowl participants.

“If there was an open spot out there among the 28 bowls, I think that open spot should take a good look at South Florida. They have a good quarterback, a nice team, and they play well,” Cape said.

Bowl participation for USF all comes down to who is not eligible in the different conferences around the country. Conferences have a certain number of bowl tie-ins, but if these conferences do not have enough teams with winning records, their bowl spot becomes open, and each individual bowl gets to pick an at-large team, such as the Bulls.

With the Big Ten having to fill seven spots and only having five eligible as of Sunday, the Bulls are being looked at as a feasible option to play in Detroit on Dec. 26 at the Motor City Bowl.

“(The Motor City Bowl) is always looking at potential participants,” said Stover. “USF is a tremendous school. They have some great players and a great team. It is something (the Motor City Bowl) always looks at.”

Besides a trip to Detroit, a trip to Honolulu for the Hawaii bowl is another wish on the Christmas list, and not just because it is nicer than Michigan in December. Conference USA wants to send five of its teams to bowls, but with only four eligible, that leaves an open spot that the 8-2 Bulls could easily fill, especially if they beat Houston next week.

Although there are eight teams in the Southeastern Conference with winning records, only six of those teams are eligible because of sanctions placed on Alabama and Kentucky. That means there could be an at-large spot waiting to be filled in the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La. This scenario, however, seems a bit unlikely because South Carolina and Mississippi need only one more win to be eligible.

Even if these open spots materialize, the Bulls have a lot of competition coming from the overabundance of eligible teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Big XII and the Pac-10. This, however, does not mean USF does not have a chance at a bowl this year.

“Any time you win and get a great record you have a chance at something,” said Stover. “Everything is mathematical.”