Inaugural bowl likely for Bulls

The Bulls’ unexpected victory over a Top 10 team, much like last season, has gained the team national attention while legitimizing another bowl appearance.

Heading into Saturday’s game with then No. 7 West Virginia, USF seemed destined to play in the Bowl in Birmingham.

A stunning 24-19 victory over the Mountaineers changed those expectations.

Aside from the major BCS bowls, the Big East Conference has ties with six other bowls: the Bowl, the Gator Bowl, the Brut Sun Bowl, the Meineke Car Care Bowl and two new bowls: the Texas Bowl and International Bowl.

Now USF awaits the final decision of bowl representatives.Unlike last season when the team finished the regular season 6-5, the 8-4 Bulls now have options for their post-season appearance.

Internet projections have South Florida participating in almost every bowl with a Big East tie-in: has USF playing Rice in the Bowl; predicts the Bulls will face Ohio in the International Bowl in Toronto; and St. Petersburg Times columnist Gary Shelton discussed the possibility of a Bulls/Seminoles match up that could happen in the Gator Bowl. The latter would require Rutgers and Louisville to convince the BCS that they’re worthy of berths in the four major bowls (Rose, Sugar, Fiesta and Orange), but as coach Jim Leavitt said following the Syracuse win, “Stranger things have happened since the beginning of time.”

But where is USF likely to end up playing?

The question will be answered soon enough, but here are the possibilities.

If Rutgers defeats the Mountaineers this Saturday in Morgantown, W.Va., the Scarlet Knights will likely represent the conference in one of the four major bowls. West Virginia’s loss on Saturday eliminated them from Big East title contention and the Mountaineers will likely play in the Texas Bowl against an opponent from the Big 12.

If Rutgers falls to West Virginia, Louisville will take its spot, presuming it beats Cincinnati. The team that fails to qualify for a major bowl will likely play in the Gator Bowl, eliminating the possibility for a USF/Florida State matchup.

A battle between the Bulls and Seminoles may be ideal for USF fans, but the likelihood of that happening is slim.

The Brut Sun Bowl has its choice of teams from the Big East, Pac-10 or the Big 12. Both and predict Missouri and Oregon State to battle in the game, however.

A return to the Meineke Car Care Bowl has been eliminated, with Navy accepting a bid in place of a Big East school to play the No. 5 or No. 6 seed in the ACC.

That leaves the two most probable bowls being the International Bowl and the Bowl. Both games are making their debuts this year and, much like South Florida, are trying to establish history.

Birmingham is hosting its first bowl game since the All-American Bowl in 1990. The Bowl has the Big East square off against a Conference USA opponent, providing the Bulls a chance to face a familiar opponent as USF spent two seasons as a member of C-USA.

While the game is 460 miles from campus, it’s also played on Dec. 23 and is one of three games scheduled that day. Like last season’s Meineke Care Car Bowl, it begins at 11 a.m.

The International Bowl pits teams from the Big East and Mid-American Conferences. An appearance in this game would give the Bulls great exposure, as it is the lone game played on Jan. 6 and thus will have more viewers. The bowl will be the first collegiate postseason game played outside of the United States since the Bacardi Bowl was played in Havana in 1937.

An invite to Toronto is highly unlikely, though, as fans would have to travel more than 1,100 miles to see the game. A majority of the 57,937 tickets sold for last year’s Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte were North Carolina State fans, as expected. USF only sold 5,000 tickets with prices at $35, $45 and $75 for a game 500 miles away.

While it’s still uncertain as to which bowl the Bulls will appear in this season, a berth in an inaugural bowl will help the Bulls establish a history and bring in the recruits necessary for the program to be considered among college football’s best teams.