For the first time since 2018, USF is bowl-eligible. Alex Golesh's remarkable turnaround and Byrum Brown's sensational Freshman season make both prime candidates for national honors. The overwhelming consensus among many Bulls fans is a War on I4 bowl reunion is the most desirable. However, a matchup with another old conference rival could be just as attractive.
Perhaps no dead FBS conference conjures more nostalgia and longing than the Big East. In the age of cross-continental leagues, the Big East seems like a throwback from long ago. Many college football fans more fondly remember the days when Miami and Virginia Tech ruled the conference in the early 2000s, but the league's last years were just as enthralling.
USF and Syracuse were cohorts in the Big East's post-Miami, Virginia Tech, and Boston College era from 2005-2012. The Bulls dominated the series with an 8-2 advantage. While the Orange were not South Florida's biggest conference rivals, several college football fans would enjoy a homage to a short-lived conference full of mystique. Multiple bowls could facilitate a Big East reunion between the two.
Military Bowl (Annapolis, MD) and Fenway Bowl (Boston, MA)
The Military and Fenway Bowls pit an ACC school against an AAC school. These bowls are open on the AAC side, without nearby Temple or Navy reaching bowl eligibility. Syracuse looks like a frontrunner for these bowls after appearing in the Pinstripe Bowl last year. The Bulls are the only bowl-eligible AAC school with a significant history with 6-6 Syracuse, making them an attractive pick.
Nevertheless, multiple factors work against the Bulls. Location is the glaring issue. Last year, the Military Bowl invited its first school from the Deep South or Florida when UCF appeared. Consequently, attendance reached lows not seen since San Jose State appeared in the bowl in 2012. The Fenway Bowl has the same logistical hurdles for the Bulls.
Having the Orange as a nearby de facto home team could sway bowl and conference officials towards sending the Bulls to either northeast bowl. Nonetheless, the ACC tie-in typically forces the AAC to send one of its better teams. Big East nostalgia is likely not enough for the AAC to send USF over 11-2 Tulane, 11-2 SMU, 9-3 Memphis, or 8-4 UTSA.
Gasparilla Bowl (Tampa, FL)
This bowl is a more fascinating and likely option for this Big East reunion. USF looks destined to play another game at its home, "The House That Warrick Dunn Built." Most prognosticators have UCF filling opposing USF, but the Orange also makes sense as an opponent.
The ACC appeared in the Gasparilla Bowl last year when Wake Forest got the nod.
With USF playing in their home stadium, in their first bowl in five years, an intersectional opponent does not hurt the bowl too much. Additionally, fans could enjoy a reason to escape the brutal Winter of Central New York.
Still, the Gasparilla Bowl will not pass up an opportunity to resurrect one of the Sunshine State's fiercest rivalries. A Gasparilla Bowl matchup featuring Syracuse instead of UCF is merely a consolation for Bulls fans.
For the first time in half a decade, USF fans are experiencing the joy and speculation of bowl season. A matchup against a former Big East foe is unlikely, but is a fun recollection of the program's glory days and a past time in college football.