Recent Upset Trend Makes Stop in Tampa

At the top of the Big East standings, a content, confident and possibly complacent Bulls team entered Thursday’s Big East opener with an undefeated 5-0 record. As a result, however, USF played with a target on its back and Pittsburgh hit the bull’s eye with a 26-21 win that is sure to drop USF severely in the AP poll.

Although the first official BCS standings don’t debut until later this month, there’s a very good chance USF’s national title hopes are over. Before Thursday’s game, Matt Grothe told The Tampa Tribune he felt the Bulls were in the same position as #1 ranked USC last week before they were upset by unranked Oregon State, and that hopefully the Pittsburgh game wouldn’t have the same outcome.

Unfortunately it did.

USF now joins Georgia, Florida, Ohio State and even USC as another one-loss team who expected to make a run at the Orange Bowl, but came up short.

In most cases, one loss will ruin a season. Both Miami in 2000 and Michigan in 2006 can attest. While it’s not impossible for one-loss teams to win it all – it’s even possible for a rare two-loss team to do it as LSU did last season – it is unlikely that USF will have the same luck.

Pittsburgh’s season-opening loss to unranked Bowling Green will haunt USF’s resume come December. Consider that any one-loss team from the Big 12 and potentially five from the SEC would jump the Bulls in the BCS because of schedule strength, their elite conferences and the number of “quality wins”, a term with a very ambiguous meaning.

The Bulls are now 0-2 on ESPN Thursday night games, with one more ESPN appearance still to come this season on October 30 at Cincinnati. USF must win out in order to receive a bid to a respectable bowl, but that includes beating West Virginia at Morgantown and UConn, who is considered to be the “sleeper” team in the Big East.

Luckily the Bulls don’t play again until October 18, giving them ample time to prepare for the tough opponents who lie ahead. Now the question shifts to whether the Bulls will even win the Big East conference, much less earn a spot in the BCS national championship game.

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