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There's a path to a New Year's Day bowl for USF

By Martin Fennelly
OCTAVIO JONES | Times
USF defensive end Greg Reaves (41) celebrates a sack of Cincinnati Bearcats quarterback Ross Trail (12) during the second half.

It’s a pretty clear track.

USF now has a path to a New Year’s Six Bowl. And that would make it a transcendent season for Charlie Strong and his now 16th-ranked Bulls.

If USF wins out, hello to that elusive conference title. The Bulls have been chasing that since the program began.

If USF wins out, hello Peach Bowl, or Fiesta Bowl, whichever. I think.

Hello to tangible progress.

It’s in USF’s hands, too.

There will be obstacles, perhaps none more daunting than the regular season finale at still undefeated UCF. The Knights might still haunt the Bulls. The largest game in the history of the I-4 rivalry looms, though that’s not a very long list.

San Diego State lost to Boise State the other night. The Aztecs, with wins over Stanford and at Arizona State (which just bumped off No. 5 Washington), would clearly have led the Group of Five teams in the first College Football Playoff rankings.

Actually, they still might.

But I think a perfect USF might trump that.

Still, it’s all the more reason for USF to hope UCF is as good as it can be, as highly ranked as it can be, going into their game the day after Thanksgiving.

USF will have to be perfect.

Repeating: Perfect.

There are no Group of Five teams ahead of USF in the AP poll.

The fact that San Diego State has beaten both Stanford and an Arizona State is no small matter.

USF can matter more if it wins out. And if UCF does the same right up until I-4 day.