South Florida hosts West Virginia tonight at 8 p.m. A win for the Bulls means UC plays for a berth in a BCS Bowl on Saturday afternoon.
Should the Mountaineers win in Tampa, the best UC can do is share the Big East title.
Regardless, the BCS berth won't be decided until the final seconds tick off at Nippert Stadiumand bring a wild, turbulent Big East regular season to a close.
Here's a nice view of what the Bulls --- losers of six of their last seven --- are playing for from Adam Adkins of the Tampa Tribune.
The Bulls need a win to become bowl eligible, so that will lead the charge.
In regards to their chances, I've got some good news and I've got some bad news. The good news is each of the last two trips to Tampa, WVU has been ranked and lost to Bulls.
The bad news: USF is 0-7 on Thursday night ESPN games, including an embarrassing 44-17 defeat at Pitt earlier this year. They are also 1-5 in league play at home under Skip Holtz.
BJ Daniels said his injured shoulder is feeling better, but he's still unsure if he will play.
Yet, the chaos theory still exists. If it can cause chaos, it will happen in the Big East. The two biggest upsets in the Big East this season involved road teams laying an egg. The first being WVU falling at Syracuse and the second Rutgers flop at UConn last week.
Toss in the emotion of Senior Night and a Bulls win doesn't seem like a complete stretch.
--- Much of the talk this week revolves around what the stakes will be for Saturday's game against UConn: BCS or other. From the angle of these seniors, however, that fate falls almost insignificant in the long view.
When they look back at the legacy and accomplishments of their careers, the work done to this point in the year will already have been gratifying enough.
For this group of 21, they experienced unprecedented success immediately upon arrival. Some of them were a part of it, others watched from the sidelines anticipating their turn. As last year's season concluded, it was unknown if they would have that shot. They could only hope to have the ability to play meaningful games late in the season and certainly learned there were no assurances they would ever play in a bowl game again.
Leading the way to 8-3 this year and challenging at the top of the Big East again, placed a special cherry on an already spectacular dessert. For some, because of the central leadership role they played in it, this season -- regardless of finish -- feels more special than the runs of 2008 and 2009.
"They were all saying we weren't going to be very good this year," JK Schaffer said. "You look at this team, we have overcome a lot of adversity. Coach Jones always talks about how much adversity we have gone through with the season that we had last year and Zach going down and all that stuff, that just makes it all the more special for us to be able to say we went through and won all these games and the adversity and fought through the battles."When those 21 seniors walk onto the field to be honored prior to Saturday's game, they should probably raise their hands and scream as the roller-coaster that has been their UC career pulls into the station one final time.
"Came in while the coaster was at the top of the hill then kind of went down and now it is back up," Isaiah Pead said. "It's been fun. It's definitely an experience I wouldn't trade for the world, but it's definitely coming to a close and that's the sad part."
When you start to think about the last four years as a whole, it's hard to imagine living in the middle of it. From the whirlwind of Orange Bowl to the special undefeated 2009 regular season and then the craziest off-field scenarios in UC history with the departure of Brian Kelly and Sugar Bowl loss. Then one of the most trying, disappointing seasons in recent memory last year to overcoming all the skeptics this season only to see Zach Collaros go down just as they were on the brink of running away with another dream season.
Hard to imagine the emotional swings these 21 endured.
In Pead's eyes, those trials and tribulations weren't about his feelings or personal goals. The journey was about being a part of the system. There's ownership in leaving the situation better than where you found it.
"It's my senior class," he said. "It's us who came in as young guys, as freshman. The seniors and juniors of those years brought us across this path and showed us how it is supposed to be done. Now it is on us to lead the young guys and show them the path, laying the foundation, building the program. That's the big thing."
--- The final game at Nippert Stadium will be as special as anything else, especially considering UC will have been away from there for 75 days. Bill Koch had the story on that topic.
--- In case you haven't listened to it yet, Dan Hoard and I discussed if this is the best senior class to come through UC in this week's podcast. Here's the link.
--- I mentioned earlier in the week the great game Connor Barwin enjoyed for the Texans on Sunday. The news got better yesterday as Barwin was named the AFC Defensive Player of the Month for November.
I guess 6.5 sacks during a 3-0 run doesn't hurt.
--- UC heads out to Georgia today. I only wish I was headed out for a few nights in Athens, I'm sure the place won't be too crazy with UGA only in the SEC Championship game for the first time in seven years this weekend.
The Bulldogs are young and have struggled thus far. Xavier had them down by as many as 37. They lost by 24 to Cal and even fell at Colorado. They've lost three of their last four and rely heavily on freshman leading scorer Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (13.6 ppg).
The Bearcats need this one. With the schedule the way it is, another non-conference loss without the benefit of many opportunities to make up for it could start to take a significant toll on UC's NCAA resume.
--- From the "I'm Happy, But The Rest Of You Don't Want To Hear It" files, my OU Bobcats handed Marshall its first loss of the season last night. And they did so in Huntington, WV. As you all know, the Herd have a nice squad. This is a great win for OU, but certainly doesn't help with UC's perception. They could use Marshall turning into a mid-major terror this season.
--- The key for UC right now is finding some consistency on offense.
They currently rank dead last in the Big East and 249th in the country in points scored. This without playing one Power 6 program and returning its top four scorers from last season.
Mick Cronin mentioned Cheikh Mbodj being a nervous wreck during his first few games, much like many of the freshman. They will learn to play loose with time, but I think that theory permeates the starters as well.
Kilpatrick, Dixon and Wright seem unsure when to take shots, when to penetrate and when to kick. Against Miami, Yancy Gates passed up a wide open 15-footer and traveled. The players appear to be thinking more than letting their ability and instincts take over.
Cronin alluded to the same theory Tuesday night.
"If you just worry about defense and rebounding, it's amazing how shots start to fall," he said. "You got to get lost in the game. You can't think about scoring."
--- New album by The Roots is streaming here.
--- I'm positive this makes me a loser, but I am loving these Karate Kid rehearsal videos that surfaced.
--- The Onion.
--- For senior week, we have to mention DJ Woods who made so many big catches for UC over the years. This is one of the most memorable for me. It's the most violent hit I've ever seen a player take and hold onto the ball.