TAMPA — Any bowl speculation should be prefaced with a reminder that USF needs another win just to be bowl eligible. But if that happens, the game that still matches up best for the Bulls is the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl in St. Petersburg, which could provide an interesting storyline for its Dec. 20 kickoff: Skip Holtz vs. East Carolina.
The Conference USA side of the BOB is looking more and more like the winner of Saturday's ECU-Marshall game; both are 5-6, so the winner will be bowl eligible, the loser done for the year. An invitation could be extended even this weekend, to help with ticket sales since the game is early in the bowl lineup.
If the Bulls can get win No. 6 — and that's still a big if, with games against Louisville and West Virginia and QB B.J. Daniels' status uncertain due to a shoulder injury — then having Holtz against his old team would be the best sell the bowl could ask for.
Holtz, in his second season with the Bulls, wouldn't like the prospect of getting a win at the expense of his former players. USF wouldn't do anything to resist placement in St. Petersburg, where the most Bulls fans have the chance to see them play. And with UCF now out of bowl contention, USF is the only local option for St. Pete as well.
ECU has bounced back from a 1-4 start — those losses were to South Carolina, Virginia Tech and Houston (all now ranked) and North Carolina. The Pirates defense is still suspect, having allowed three teams to score 48 or more, with two wins in which they've allowed more than 30.
BIG CROWDS: USF men's soccer has enjoyed its first season in new Corbett Soccer Stadium, and the Tampa Bay Sports Commission made admission free to all fans in Sunday's 2-1 overtime win over Central Florida in the NCAA Tournament second round.
That helped the Bulls draw an announced 3,029, with fans packing the berms on three sides of the stadium. A bigger crowd is expected Sunday for seventh-seeded USF's third-round match with 10th-seeded New Mexico (17-0-3), the only undefeated team in college soccer.
"It'd be crazy for me not to thank the Sports Commission for this, and our marketing team," coach George Kiefer said. "When Corny (Corbett, the former Rowdies owner) and I got together about the stadium, this is what we envisioned. Packed berms and kids here that leave with a passion for the game."
THIS AND THAT: Former USF pitcher Daniel Otero, now a top reliever in the Giants' minor-league system, was added to the 40-man roster this week. … Freshman PG Anthony Collins, who missed the first five games with a hip injury, should make his debut tonight against Georgia Southern. He'll make it a three-man battle at the point with Lavonte Dority and Blake Nash and might be the best-suited of the three to help the Bulls handle full-court pressure defensively, a problem in a loss Sunday to Penn State. … Volleyball closes its season tonight against Florida A&M after missing the Big East tournament for the first time in six years. The question now is whether the Bulls extend the contract of eighth-year coach Claire Lessinger, who reached 100 career wins this season but hasn't made the NCAA Tournament.