More on the new bowl in St. Petersburg ...
Questions about the newly approved St. Petersburg Bowl? We have answers in today's paper. One thing I want to expand on is how often USF is likely to wind up playing at the Trop.
"This by no means is a USF bowl game," said Big East associate commissioner Nick Carparelli. "USF will be a candidate like any other Big East school, but you have seven other programs that would like the chance to be in Florida in December. This will be nothing like the Fort Worth or Hawaii bowl models in terms of the frequency of the local team playing there."
Hawaii, you see, has played in four of the six Hawaii bowls, and one of the exceptions was last year's BCS berth. TCU played in the initial Fort Worth bowl in its home stadium but hasn't been back since changing conference affiliations. So expect USF and UCF occasionally, especially to help the attendance numbers, but it's not like there will be a Florida school in the game every year.
You could make the argument that the truly new bowl in the Big East lineup is the Papajohns.com Bowl in Birmingham, which has been upgraded significantly from a Conference USA opponent to the SEC and accordingly bumped up from a pre-Christmas date to Dec. 29. St. Pete ostensibly now has the matchup that Birmingham's had in recent years, as well as a date close to what the pizza folks had.
The pre-Christmas bowl lineup is changing quite a bit -- in addition to Birmingham moving, the Hawaii Bowl has moved back a day to a Christmas Eve kickoff, and the Poinsettia in San Diego has shifted from a bowl-season-opening Dec. 20 date to a prime-time Dec. 23 kickoff. The new bowl in Washington, D.C., will likely be the first bowl played, on Dec. 20, with Las Vegas that night. Three other presumably pre-Christmas games haven't announced a date: New Orleans, New Mexico and St. Pete. There's nothing scheduled for Monday, Dec. 22, though a prime-time ESPN2 slot would be up against "Monday Night Football" on ESPN. So it's either an uncontested afternoon slot, or sharing a night kickoff with another game.
-- The Big East will only have six contracted bowls this season, as the Texas Bowl is shifting to a full-time Big 12 vs. C-USA format. And as far as the Big East bowl hierarchy goes, remember that ESPN controls both the Birmingham and St. Pete bowls, so think of it like a team with the fifth and sixth picks in the same draft; they'll pick the two best matchups collectively. I doubt you'd see Rutgers or Connecticut, which travel to Tampa to play USF in late November this season, asked to make essentially the same trip a month later with their fans. If I were handicapping the Big East side of the St. Pete game, my top three most likely picks would be Louisville, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. Thoughts?