Win out, and Gator Bowl would look at USF
With two big weekends remaining in the regular season, it's difficult to get a good read on the Big East's bowl picture, but there's a new wrinkle to give the Bulls extra incentive Saturday against Miami: Rick Catlett, president of the Gator Bowl Association, said his game would consider USF if the Bulls won their last two games.
"I don't think there's any doubt, South Florida at 9-3, coming off a big win against Miami, would be a team we would look at," Catlett said Wednesday.
The Gator Bowl has the right to pick the Big East's No. 2 team, with the conference champion taking an automatic spot in the BCS. Catlett said he does not anticipate a second Big East team getting a BCS at-large nod, even if Cincinnati takes its first loss in its season finale at Pittsburgh. (More on that later.)
The Gator Bowl has the option of choosing Notre Dame instead of a Big East team, and Catlett said the Fighting Irish remain an option for Jacksonville if they can earn a seventh win at Stanford this weekend.
"At 8-4, we would have taken Notre Dame, and at 7-5, they would not be out of the picture, but it would be a little more difficult," Catlett said.
The Gator Bowl will have its committee chairman at Friday's "Backyard Brawl" between Pittsburgh and West Virginia, and Catlett said if Pittsburgh were to lose its remaining two games, his bowl would likely choose between West Virginia and USF if the Bulls won their final two games (Miami and at Connecticut). USF won the head-to-head meeting with West Virginia, but the Mountaineers have a reputation for traveling well to bowl games.
Catlett said USF's strong showing in bringing about 14,000 fans to Tallahassee for the Bulls' 17-7 win at Florida State in September was an impressive display of how well USF's fans can travel for a big in-state game. The allotment for each team in Jacksonville is 12,500 fans.
"Looking at the stands (in Tallahassee), our people there said you could tell how many people were there for South Florida in that game," Catlett said. "That obviously wasn't lost on us."
Catlett has options on the ACC side as well, with the loser of the ACC title game (Georgia Tech vs. Clemson), as well as potential nine-win Virginia Tech and North Carolina teams.
Catlett's take on the BCS at-large spots is that Oklahoma State can lock up a spot in the Fiesta Bowl with a win this week against Oklahoma, with the Florida-Alabama loser getting an at-large, as well as TCU and either Iowa or Penn State. He said even though Boise State would be undefeated, the Broncos would not be selected for a BCS bowl if Oklahoma State wins this week.