For the second season in a row West Virginia University's football team has fallen to the South Florida Bulls. The Mountaineers' fading hopes for a national championship game are dashed. The likelihood of a BCS bowl appearance by WVU has taken a serious blow.
The result of the game should not shock anyone. The Bulls, after all, did come into Morgantown last year and beat the Mountaineers, so playing the upstart program in Tampa had to be a concern. Raymond James Stadium, the home of the NFL's Buccaneers, was sold out for the Bulls game. Not only was this the first time the Bulls had a sellout in Raymond James, it was also the first time game officials even opened the upper deck for a USF game.
Yes, it sounds like an ambush, but it really wasn't. The Mountaineers knew what was coming. They even hired two coaches away from USF, so WVU should have had plenty of info on the personnel of the Bulls. Six turnovers, however, makes all the knowledge and talent in the world a moot point, at least against a quality opponent, and make no mistake, the Bulls are a quality opponent.
South Florida's rise in the college football world is amazing. It would be a great feel good story if the win which catapulted them into the Top 10 for the first time hadn't come at my team's expense. How expensive that loss is to WVU remains to be seen. On the surface this loss puts WVU squarely behind the eight ball with regard to the Mountaineers' chances to secure a BCS bowl bid.
WVU will pretty much have to win the rest of their games to get into BCS contention, either as the Big East champion, or as an at large selection. For WVU to win the Big East title, USF will have to loss two conference games. WVU already has one lose and the tie-breaker goes to you know who. If they stay healthy, it will be hard for the Bulls to lose two Big East games. A two loss WVU team will have virtually no chance at an at large bid.
As pumped as the Bulls were, WVU could have taken care of business. The Mountaineers outgained the Bulls 437 yards to 274 yards in total offense, but one Pat White interception was returned for a touchdown. White had to leave the game late in the first half due to a deep thigh bruise, and his replacement, Jarrett Brown, also moved the ball but was picked off twice, once in the Bulls' end zone.
Don't be surprised to see the Bulls on some magazine covers this week. They, and their coach Jim Leavitt, are quite a story. In 1996 the school, which is largely a commuter school, did not even have a football team. In 1997 USF hired Leavitt and began to play Division 1AA football. In 2001 they became a D1 program in Conference USA. With the defections from the Big East of Miami and Virginia Tech in 2003, the Bulls were invited to play in the Big East beginning in 2005.
Think about it. Just 11 seasons of football in the school's history and now the team is poised for a BCS bowl, and possibly more. Sorry I will have a hard time fully enjoying their fortune and fame.