Sun Bowl expecting to get Big East team
Obviously a lot can change in the final four or five weeks of the regular season, but in trying to make bowl projections for Big East schools, the trickiest part is figuring out how the Gator Bowl (Jacksonville) and Sun Bowl (El Paso, Texas) will divvy up their obligations to the Big East and Big 12. That might not be so tricky after all.
The two bowls have joint relationships with both leagues, with each bowl taking two teams from each conference over a four-year span that started last season. The Gator Bowl, which picks first each year, chose West Virginia from the Big East last year, but the Sun Bowl expects the Gator to choose a Big 12 team for its game this year.
"By all indications, that's where they're going to go," said Bernie Olivas, the Sun Bowl's executive director, who has attended USF's games against West Virginia and Rutgers this season. "We've seen some Big 12 teams this season, but we've seen a lot of Big East teams, based on the fact that (the Gator Bowl) wants to lean toward the Big 12 this time."
By picking a Big 12 team, the Gator would still have the right to choose the best matchup from either league one more time after the 2008 season; if the Gator chooses a Big East team this year, they're locked into the Big 12 for the remaining two years. Gator Bowl Association president Rick Catlett said Wednesday that his selection committee is still divided and keeping its options open between both leagues.
USF still has an outside shot at a BCS berth, but more likely is headed to a Big East-affiliated bowl, such as the Gator or Sun, or the two bowls the Bulls have played in in the past two years, the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Charlotte or the Papajohns.com Bowl in Birmingham.
If USF doesn't win the Big East, Bulls fans can pull for Connecticut to win out, which would allow West Virginia to be in place for an at-large BCS berth. That's one less team to compete with, leaving USF, Rutgers and Cincinnati as the top choices for the Gator or Sun.
The Gator would give USF its first January bowl, and its geographic proximity would allow the Bulls to travel far better than any other bowl. The Gator would allot 12,500 tickets to a Big East team, a challenge for a USF program that has yet to sell out a bowl allotment; the Sun, by comparison, would allot 8,000 tickets to a Big East program, getting strong local support in El Paso to average close to a sellout crowd around 49,000 or so in recent years. It has a Dec. 31 kickoff, with a national broadcast on CBS.
You still see a wide range of projections for the Big East bowls: Sportsline.com has West Virginia as the only BCS team, with Rutgers in El Paso, Connecticut in Charlotte, USF in Birmingham and Cincinnati in the International Bowl in Toronto. ESPN.com has two projections, both with West Virginia as the only BCS representative. Ivan Maisel has Rutgers in El Paso, USF in Charlotte, Cincinnati in Birmingham and Connecticut in Toronto (he has Louisville sneaking into the Armed Forces Bowl); Mark Schlabach has USF in the Gator, UConn in Charlotte, Rutgers in Birmingham and Cincinnati in Toronto.
Where do you think USF will go? Short of a BCS berth, where would you most like to see the Bulls?