Monday, October 8, 2007
Is South Florida a true national contender?
We first saw them on a steamy Saturday night in Alabama.
They traded blows with then No. 17 Auburn and forced an overtime.
They captured the attention of the nation when sophomore quarterback Matt Grothe's 14-yard corner pass fell into the hands of Jessie Hester, lifting the South Florida Bulls over the perennial SEC power Tigers 26-23.
Three weeks later the Bulls defeated then No. 5 West Virginia 21-13, stopping the Heisman Trophy hopeful duo of running back Steve Slaton and quarterback Pat White.
Now these Bulls bask in the national spotlight, sitting at 6-0 and No. 5 in the nation. Only LSU, California, Ohio State and Boston College are ranked higher; all undefeated and perched where they belong.
But not this South Florida team. A top 25 appearance is surprising enough, but a top 10 and even top 5 showing is an anomoly.
Sure, it's a Big East team. And, yes, it's defeated at least one ranked team in each of the last three seasons. But... South Florida?
Just one week away from the first Bowl Championship Series poll of the season, are the Bulls a legitimate BCS contender?
If they run the table or suffer just one loss, should they be playing on or after Jan. 1, 2008?
Will they get a chance like Boise State did last year? And even better, will they shock the world like those Broncos did?
South Florida's remaining schedule is tough. It has games remaining at one of last year's national darlings Rutgers (3-2), at Connecticut (5-0), and it hosts top 25 surprise Cincinnati (No. 15, 6-0) and offensive power Louisville (2-3).
If South Florida is one of two undefeated teams left in the country, will it play in the national championship?
If South Florida ends up 11-1 and USC (who lost to lowly Stanford) or Florida (who's lost twice) or one of the four teams ahead of the Bulls lose in the final week(s), will the BCS system work in it's favor? Will we get the Bulls against another perennial power? Or will they end up like Auburn (13-0) did three years ago and be snubbed because two other teams were also undefeated.