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USF won’t be hurt by FIU departure

It seems as if the ACC’s trend of playing two Division I-AA non-conference games in a season is catching on in other BCS conferences. It’s not always be choice, however.

With Florida International buying out of its game against USF next season, the Bulls are scrambling to find an opponent. FIU paid approximately $200,000 to take the game off its schedule — just to play Rutgers.

Sometimes these situations can prompt bitter feelings. Don’t sweat it, Bulls fans — USF playing two Football Championship Subdivision teams won’t hurt things too much.

USF has already scheduled FCS foe Wofford and cupcake Western Kentucky. Without any time to schedule another opponent by next season, the Bulls will be looking for another “Sun-Belt” type opponent.

This type of ordeal could’ve hurt USF’s schedule strength, but because the Bulls are playing in-state powers Miami and Florida State they won’t lose too much. In fact, this may help USF gear up and prepare to play those two crucial games.

Now, how does the Big East feel about one of its teams possibly playing two FCS teams?

“Unfortunately, the trend around the country is for smaller conference teams to drop games to create better financial situations,” said Nick Carparelli, Big East Associate Football Commissioner.

As a result, USF is in the same boat as Rutgers — looking for a slot to fill.  Both are trying to add a quality opponent to their schedules, but the possibility of playing two FCS teams is becoming more and more of a reality.  Even though that looks likely, it has paid off in the past for other teams in the same situation.

The issue is that playing two FCS teams will not count toward bowl game eligibility. Considering the Big East struggles USF has faced in the past two seasons, non-conference wins could be really important.

However, last season, five teams — Texas Tech, Western Kentucky, Clemson, Florida State and Georgia Tech — played two FCS teams, and all but one of them made it to a bowl game.  Clemson was the closest to being ineligible with a 7-5 record, but it eventually played in the Gator Bowl.

Hawaii was one of three teams that played two FCS opponents to make it to a bowl game in 2007. Hawaii had its dream season that year, going 13-0 in the regular season. However, in the Sugar Bowl, Georgia pummeled Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan and company.

That’s the one negative of this whole ordeal — playing a weak non-conference schedule can hurt teams later in the season. Of the five teams that played two FCS non-conference games last year, only won one of its bowl game. USF could be hurt during Big East play by playing a weak non-conference schedule.

But the past two seasons have shown that playing two FCS teams can be an advantage.

Hawaii, Clemson, FSU, Texas Tech and Georgia Tech made constant appearances in the Top 25.

Next fall, Duke, North Carolina and N.C. State — all from the ACC — will play two Division I-AA opponents. It looks like the Bulls will join them — it won’t hurt their chances of making a bowl, though. It comes down to winning football games, just like any other FCS team. But, most importantly, it will come down to winning in the Big East, which is slightly more daunting.