Charlotte? B'ham? USF bowl picture clears up
As a league, the Big East's bowl picture is still awkwardly wide-open -- consider Pittsburgh, which could go to a BCS bowl with a win and losses by West Virginia and Connecticut. Or, should the Panthers lose Saturday, at 6-6 they could easily fall all the way to an at-large berth, perhaps to the Little Caesar's Bowl in Detroit.
Where will USF (7-4) play its first bowl under Skip Holtz? St. Petersburg, once seemingly slotted for the Bulls, now looks like a match for Louisville, and with a home win Saturday, USF should be in position to land one of the league's top two non-BCS bowls.
The Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando is strongly considering Notre Dame, with the option of choosing the Fighting Irish once in the new four-year cycle. They could wait, hoping to get Notre Dame better than its 7-5 team this year, but they also must guard against them not being available at all in the remaining three years, either with a rise to the BCS or with continued struggles.
If USF beats UConn and West Virginia wins to get the league's BCS bid, USF would be in strong position to land in Charlotte on Dec. 31 at the Meineke Car Care Bowl, where the Bulls made their bowl debut in 2005. With a win Saturday, USF would have won five of its last six, and the familiarity of Holtz in North Carolina could help draw fans to see USF against an ACC team like Clemson.
Should the Bulls lose Saturday -- and remember that Connecticut is 1-4 on the road this season -- they'd likely go to Birmingham, where they played against Holtz's East Carolina team in 2006. Playing in Birmingham would offer a tame SEC opponent such as Kentucky, and the Jan. 8 date would give Holtz the full allotment of 15 bowl practices, a nice benefit as he looks toward his second season.
St. Petersburg would have its first game without a local team like USF or Central Florida, but officials are confident that Louisville, playing in its first bowl game in four years, would travel well, and former Gators assistant Charlie Strong makes for a good storyline in his first game back in Florida. Southern Miss, with another former Gators assistant in Larry Fedora, has accepted a bid and brings a high-scoring offense that averaged 37.6 points this season.