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USF should beware of scheduling

Last week there was a pretty big announcement from USF Athletics — the Bulls and the Florida State Seminoles signed a two-game football deal with the first game on Sept. 26.

There was a lot of hoopla around campus. Naturally, after the series was announced, it took all of two seconds for Facebook groups to pop up, and status bars to read things like: “Looks like FSU finally found the courage.”

Well, the only thing I can say to people like that is: Be careful what you wish for.

USF signing a deal to play FSU is a huge step. The University is growing. And playing an in-state school that isn’t Central Florida might be good for the Bulls in terms of exposure and recruiting.

If fans think FSU was hiding from a school like USF, however, they need to make their way back to planet Earth. It’s not like Seminoles coach Bobby Bowden is running some sort of cupcake program up in Tallahassee.

FSU has won 382 games under Bowden in 34 years. If you’re keeping track, that’s about 300 more than USF has won in its 12-year history.

FSU finished 9-4 this season and ended the year ranked No. 21 in the Associated Press poll — an average year for fans.

USF has never won 10 games in a season. Bowden has done it 18 times, including a run of 14 consecutive seasons that lasted from 1987-2000.

Oh yeah, the Seminoles won two National Championships (1993, 1999) during that 14-year run, too.

It’s not so much that FSU “found the courage” as much as the Bulls earned an opportunity to play a storied program such as Bowden’s. After all, if USF Coach Jim Leavitt is going to keep the Bulls moving forward, these are the opportunities he needs.

Florida State isn’t the only prestigious university the Bulls have coming up on their schedule.

Miami, Florida, Notre Dame, Michigan State and Ball State are just some of the teams USF will play in the coming seasons.

USF rose in the national rankings and earned its moments in the spotlight by dominating non-conference opponents on a regular basis. The Bulls started 6-0 in 2007 and 5-0 in 2008 before Big East woes doomed USF’s last two seasons.

USF was 2-5 in the Big East last season and needed every non-conference win to get into the St. Petersburg Bowl. If USF can’t get off to another hot start, it might not even make it back to St. Pete.

With opposition like FSU and Miami next season, Leavitt will find it tougher and tougher to get his team off to another quick start. Worse, if the Bulls suffer a devastating loss to either team, it will give other big programs the impression USF isn’t ready for the “big stage” just yet.

If there is anything I’ve learned in my time at USF, however, it’s that Leavitt and Co. can’t be counted out before the season starts.

After all, a lot of folks were certain that USF would lose to No. 9 Louisville in 2005 or No. 17 Auburn or No. 5 West Virginia in 2007. Heck, there was noise about No. 13 Kansas going into Raymond James Stadium and beating the Bulls, but USF shocked them all.

Leavitt will need to keep his team focused on winning those big games in the upcoming seasons because they are more important now.

These are the games USF needs to win if it wants to be mentioned in the same breath as Florida, Florida State and Miami. Sure, there were times over the last two seasons when USF was the highest-ranked team in Florida, but UF just won its second national championship in the last three years while the Bulls finished their 12th consecutive season on the outside looking into the final AP Poll.

If Leavitt wants people to mention USF in the same regard as the “Big Three,” he needs to win games like the one taking place in Tallahassee on
Sept. 26.

Perhaps it will be a “Big Four” in a couple years.