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USF Bulls football fans hope for bowl trip to Birmingham, Ala.

TAMPA — UCF fans want to see USF in the St. Petersburg Bowl, but that probably won't happen.

Instead, the Bulls are more likely to get what is typically the dream of any college football program: playing in a January bowl game.

This isn't the New Year's Day variety, of course, but rather the Jan. 2 kind — USF fans want to see the Bulls at 2 p.m. in the Papajohns.com Bowl in Birmingham, Ala., though the Bulls could play two hours earlier — and 950 miles north — at the International Bowl in Toronto.

A poll on Tampabay.com on Tuesday asked USF fans what bowl they'd like to see the Bulls in, choosing among Birmingham, St. Petersburg and Toronto. A good majority — 62 percent — chose Birmingham, which would pit the Bulls against an SEC team, likely South Carolina or Kentucky.

That would give the Bulls a chance at their first bowl win against a BCS-conference opponent. Another 28 percent like St. Petersburg — a return to Tropicana Field would provide a great story line with another chapter in the USF-UCF rivalry but could in one day negate whatever benefit the Bulls gained in the state's football hierarchy by beating FSU.

A poll at OrlandoSentinel.com on Tuesday asked UCF fans who they want to face at the Trop, and the easy answer was USF, which got 66 percent of votes, ahead of Rutgers (22 percent).

Toronto? That would have easily the fewest Bulls fans in attendance and would have USF up against a Mid-American Conference team such as Temple, which won nine straight games this year and is bowl-eligible for the first time in 30 years. There's a value in hearing Bill Cosby talk about USF, but not much else.

Would a win Saturday at Connecticut help USF's chances? It would logically make the Big East more confident about putting USF in Birmingham against an SEC opponent. The Bulls won't likely find out their bowl fate until Sunday morning, though there's a chance they could be invited after Saturday's game.

Rebounding: After a 1-2 start, the USF women's basketball team has won four in a row, including three last weekend in California, heading into Friday's home game against Washington. The Bulls will raise a banner Friday commemorating the team's WNIT championship last season.

The Bulls (5-2) played the trip without senior G Janae Stokes, who was arrested last week at a Wal-Mart near campus on a misdemeanor charge of petit theft (less than $100) the night before the team was to leave for Los Angeles.

Coach Jose Fernandez suspended Stokes indefinitely but expects her to return. Stokes led the nation in 3-pointers last season, and her average of 16 points per game is USF's best this season. Senior C Jessica Lawson averages 14.8.

After opening the year with sophomore Jasmine Wynne at point guard, Fernandez has shifted her to shooting guard and moved freshman KaNeisha Saunders to the point.

This and that: Thanks to a sellout Saturday against Miami, USF's average actual attendance ends up at 41,378, up 10 percent from last season. … No USF assistant football coach has gone on to become a college head football coach, but that could change as Mark Stoops and Eric Wolford, part of Jim Leavitt's original staff in 1996, have been mentioned for Youngstown State's opening and other jobs.

Greg Auman can be reached at auman@sptimes.com and at (813) 226-3346. Check out his blog at blogs.tampabay.com/usf.

USF Bulls football fans hope for bowl trip to Birmingham, Ala. 12/01/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 1, 2009 9:35pm]

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