TAMPA — Perhaps having a new coach will change things, or the simple fact that USF won't be ranked when the Bulls play at West Virginia this week.
But the game is on a Thursday night on ESPN, and that alone has meant trouble for the Bulls, who are 0-5 on Thursdays over the past three seasons.
The Thursday woes include their first loss each of the last three years — after reaching No. 2 in 2007, the Bulls lost to Rutgers 30-27; after reaching No. 10 in 2008, they lost to Pittsburgh 26-21; and last year, after their highest ranking of No. 21, they lost to Cincinnati, all on Thursdays. And a Thursday loss last season, 31-0 to Rutgers, is the only regular-season shutout in Bulls history.
USF coach Skip Holtz wasn't there for any of that, but in his only Thursday game at East Carolina, he lost 16-3 to Virginia Tech. Otherwise, he was 4-0 in non-Saturday games with the Pirates, with wins on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday in the past two years. That shows an ability to overcome the irregular preparation cycles that come with shorter weeks for weeknight appearances.
Thursday's game opens a stretch of three weeknight dates — next week, USF is at Cincinnati on Friday, then after a week off, the Bulls play host to Rutgers on Wednesday, Nov. 3. Holtz said his main concern with such games is the academic disruption — players will miss two days of classes in traveling and playing, and won't get back to campus until early morning Friday.
"Positive end, great exposure for the program," Holtz said. "Thursday night has become like Monday Night Football in the NFL. Everybody goes home after Thursday night practice, all the athletes around the country go home and watch. It's become part of the tradition of college football. … I hate what it does to our student-athletes from an academic standpoint. … It makes it a very difficult week for them academically, and it's not just this week. We're going to go an entire month where we don't play on Saturday."
Bulls QB B.J. Daniels said he likes the platform of a weeknight on ESPN, knowing much of the nation's college football fans will be watching to see how a team handles the spotlight.
"Prime time, ESPN, that's something special," Daniels said. "It really is a beautiful opportunity for us to get out there and play."
And as for USF's Thursday night history, the Bulls were ranked in all five of those losses; in only one was their opponent ranked (Cincinnati was No. 8 last season). Now, facing No. 25 West Virginia, the Bulls can become prime-time spoilers.
THIS AND THAT: Senior Jeff Attinella was named Big East goalkeeper of the week for the second time this season after leading USF to two scoreless ties, against Florida Atlantic and Villanova. Attinella has four shutouts in a row, with a streak of 410 scoreless minutes entering this afternoon's match at DePaul. … Coach Stan Heath's men's basketball team has its first practice Friday afternoon (closed to the public). The Green and Gold preseason scrimmage is Oct. 22 in the Sun Dome, and fans can watch USF's football game against Cincinnati as part of the event.
Greg Auman can be reached at email@example.com and at (813) 226-3346. Check out his blog at tampabay.com/blogs/bulls and follow him at Twitter.com/gregauman.