New bowl projections sending USF all over
Three weeks into the college football season, there have been enough wrinkles and surprises that many mainstream sites are updating their preseason bowl projections, and to no surprise, USF is being sent all over the Southeast for its projected postseason.
The uncertainty of the Big East -- most of the league's top teams have disappointed, with West Virginia as the only convincing unbeaten left in the league. Rutgers, a wobbly 2-0, can validate itself with a home win against North Carolina, and Pittsburgh and Cincinnati have tough ranked opponents this week in Miami (on Thursday night) and Oklahoma. A road win by West Virginia at LSU would help the league's standing considerably, but Baton Rouge isn't an easy place to win.
Back to the bowl projections -- before the season, it was hard to argue with early expectations of USF being a match to return to the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl in St. Petersburg, where the Bulls beat Memphis two seasons ago. USF would have to outperform expectations to rise above the bottom tier of Big East bowls, where geography would naturally marry them to Tropicana Field.
ESPN.com has two projections -- Mark Schlabach has the Bulls in Birmingham against (gulp) Louisiana-Lafayette, a bowl pairing as exciting as Northern Illinois in Toronto. At least there's better food in Birmingham. Andrea Adelson has USF playing Kentucky in the Liberty Bowl, and while my palate would enjoy a return to Memphis, that scenario seems unlikely.
The folks at Collegefootballnews.com also like USF for Birmingham -- that game is in the odd post-New Year's window on Jan. 8 -- and have a much more enticing pairing with Kentucky on the other side. And CBSsports.com is sticking with the St. Pete pick, with a nod to USF's Conference USA past in matching the Bulls with Southern Miss.