USF, Cincy top choices for bowl in Alabama

USF is one of two teams expected to represent the Big East in the Bowl.

With an 8-4 record, including a victory over a top-10 team and a near upset of Rutgers, the Bulls have become a hot commodity to bowl representatives.

Executive Director of the Bowl Mark Meadows feels USF would be a “great team” to play Conference USA’s East Carolina University in the inaugural game.

“I think we’re looking at Cincinnati or South Florida for the Bowl,” Meadows said. “We’d be very pleased to have either of those two teams represent the Big East in our bowl game.”

After spending two seasons as a member of C-USA, the Bulls own a 3-0 advantage in the all-time series with East Carolina. USF defeated the Pirates 41-7 during their last meeting in 2004.

Coach Jim Leavitt thinks East Carolina would be an excellent opponent for his team’s second bowl appearance.

“That will be a heck of a game if that is what it is. We will have to play our best to have a shot at beating them,” Leavitt said during Tuesday’s media luncheon. “It will be a heck of a deal. If we get an invitation there, we’d be very happy.”

East Carolina is making its 13th bowl appearance – its first since the 2001 GMAC Bowl, when the Pirates lost to Marshall 64-61 in double overtime.

The Pirates have a 7-5 record this year, including a 21-16 victory over North Carolina State, the same team that beat USF 14-0 in last season’s Meineke Car Care Bowl.

Meadows said even though USF has had success against the ECU in the past, playing a bowl game on a neutral site is a completely different experience.

“We really don’t look at what teams have done historically against each other,” Meadows said. “It’s good the two teams have played before, and I think East Carolina is excited about that matchup.”

The other potential Big East candidate, the Cincinnati Bearcats, will head to a bowl playing their first game without head coach Mark Dantonio, who became the head coach of Michigan State. Defensive coordinator Pal Narduzzi was appointed interim head coach.

Cincinnati, which finished with a 7-5 record – including a 23-6 victory over USF on Oct. 22 – is among the teams still available for the International Bowl in Toronto.

The Bowl is Dec. 23 at 1 p.m. and broadcast nationwide on ESPN 2 from Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala.

Birmingham hasn’t hosted a bowl game since the 1990 All-American Bowl, and Meadows said with the close proximity between Tampa and Birmingham, USF fans can make the game a special event.

“I had some nice feedback about USF from the Meineke Car Care Bowl representatives,” Meadows said. “With all the flights between the two cities (Tampa and Birmingham), it should be easy for fans to come here, and Birmingham has been waiting for a game for a long time; they’re ready to party.”