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Conference Savior?

USF’s football program got loads of well-deserved national attention this week.The Big East, though, not so much.

Everyone’s favorite to fly away with the conference was the Cardinals. They were the diamond in the Big East rough, the lone team with a legit shot at the national title.

Then they walked into Raymond James Stadium Saturday, and well, things just haven’t been the same.

This can’t be good for the Big East, right? After all, this is a conference whose BCS bid was said by some to be misplaced before Louisville was humiliated by USF.

Afterward, that argument only got more ammo.

“The team of BCS geniuses has got to get back together and figure out what they’re going to do with this automatic BCS bid, because clearly no one there is deserving,” Jim Rome said on his radio show Monday. “There’s no way somebody out of the Big East should get an automatic bid.”

Rome is wrong most of the time and in this case, still is. He may think the Big East is dead, but here’s why it’s still very much alive: USF. The Bulls can save the Big East.

Think for a second: Is there really a more compelling story this side of University of Southern California in college football right now?

This Bulls team, still about three years away from puberty, has a real shot at winning the Big East and an automatic BCS bid. Disney should have a guy at every game from now on, just in case they pull this off. They could call the film From Trailers to the Top.

As unrealistic as it may seem, if the Bulls play about half as well as they did against Louisville, they’ll have a shot at beating anyone in the Big East.

As much as I want to, I just can’t bring myself to believe what happened last Saturday was a fluke. The way the defense swarmed, the way Amarri Jackson did everything, just the way the Bulls looked so fast — I just can’t. 17-14 is a fluke; 45-14 is anything but.

The University of South Florida goes to South Florida on Saturday to play No. 9 Miami, another powerhouse and former Big East elite.

If USF plays Miami close, which it should, a loss won’t hurt too much. Miami is a non-conference game and USF will come out stronger no matter the outcome.

Win or lose, the experience will help the players, and the national exposure will help the program.

When the Hurricanes left the Big East two years ago, a Florida-sized hole was left. No, USF isn’t quite ready to fill it completely this year but has a good head start on doing so in the coming years.

A win over Miami, obviously, isn’t a certainty, nor a probability.

Likewise, a Big East title is not a certainty this year, but the title of contenders is.

Glass slipper manufacturers better find out what size a Bull wears.