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Football program will be first team to earn a Big East Conference title.

There are a few USF teams on the brink of Big East supremacy, but which will win a conference championship first?

Will it be the softball team, which is ranked No. 23 in the preseason poll, or possibly the women’s basketball team, which is led by one of the best players in the nation?

I’m going with the team that got USF into the Big East.

Coach Jim Leavitt and the football team will win the Big East next season and represent the conference in a Bowl Championship Series game. It’s not as far off as you might think.

Unlike other athletic programs at USF, the football team gets exactly one shot at every team in the Big East each year, and after just two seasons, the Bulls have beaten every conference opponent at least once.

With Jessica Dickson leading the way for the women’s basketball team, Jose Fernandez also has his squad well on its way. Don’t get me wrong, the women’s basketball team has a legitimate shot at winning the conference title this season, but before I put Fernandez’s team ahead of Leavitt’s, it has to beat the likes of Connecticut.

Fernandez’s Bulls are 0-3 against the Huskies, including a 77-47 beating last season.

Coach Ken Eriksen’s softball team will also contend for the conference championship this season, but it’ll have to do better than last year’s first-round loss to a mediocre Pittsburgh team in the Big East Tournament.

The football team, on the other hand, has already found success against the elite teams in the Big East. Just when I thought the Bulls couldn’t top their upset of then-No. 9 Louisville in 2005, they went on the road and beat then-No. 7 West Virginia in 2006.

The football team has proven it can beat anyone in the Big East, and last season Leavitt had his guys looking like the second-best team in state, second only to the national champion Gators. Next year, if they play their A-game throughout their conference schedule, the Bulls will be playing in January.

In addition to playing with the confidence that they can – and have – beat every team in the Big East, Leavitt’s Bulls have most of their starters returning next year. If you thought Matt Grothe looked good as a freshman, imagine his potential after spending the next seven months preparing with the first-string offense and knowing he’s the starter.

The football team is also right where it needs to be as far as coaches go. Sure, USF has lost four assistants this offseason, but the most important person on that staff isn’t going anywhere. Leavitt is entering his 11th season as the only coach in the program’s short history, and in 10 years he’ll still be here.

I’m skeptical about everything Leavitt says, but I truly believe him when he says there’s no other place he wants to coach.Leavitt wants to win a Big East championship, and he’s not leaving USF until it happens. With Louisville and West Virginia both traveling to Tampa next season, the Bulls are in a great position to take the conference.