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What's More Important - Winning the Big East or Beating the "Big 3"?

There's a pretty healthy debate among the USF fandom over which would be more important to the program if it happened - beating Florida, Miami, and/or FSU, or winning the Big East and playing in a BCS game.

Like with just about everything else that has faced our favorite team since it came into existence, it's a truly unique situation. True, there are a couple of teams in the Big East that have similar debates. For instance, Cincinnati fans may wonder if winning the Big East two years in a row is more important than if they were to beat Ohio State in 2012 or 2014. But USF has many more chances to make their case for in-state equality - a total of seven over the next five years, including the two this year - and with the mother lode of high school talent in Florida, there's arguably more on the line. Also, the Bearcats' place as the #2 program in Ohio is in absolutely no danger, while the Bulls still face at least a modest threat from programs like UCF... if not right now, then potentially in the future.

There are some common advantages to both scenarios, of course. They would both improve the football team's profile, get them more national press, and create more excitement among the students and alumni. But each one also has some distinct advantages that make them individually appealing. Personally, if I had to pick between the two, I really have no idea which way I would go. So instead, I'll present the arguments for both and let you make the call.


Playing in a BCS game gives you money and exposure and cachet that you can't get with any single win in September. I mean, the Bulls punched Florida State in the mouth in their own stadium last year, and it meant absolutely nothing by the end of the season. There are probably some fans outside the state who have forgotten that game even happened. Plus with USF's interesting backstory (the whole bit with the trailers, the youth of the program, etc.) the ESPN hype machine would be likely to turn the game into a four-hour infomercial for our team.

A BCS game would help with recruiting. Maybe not so much against FSU, Miami, and Florida, because they could still convince kids that the Big East is subpar. But it would be huge against the teams from outside the state who like to accent their roster with Florida talent - Big Ten schools, for example, and also teams in our league like Rutgers, West Virginia, and Louisville. You can win the Big East consistently if you get enough of those three- and four-star recruits.


On the other hand, almost everyone in the state remembers that USF beat the Seminoles, and so do the high school recruits everyone is after. If you want there to truly be a "Big 4", you have to be able to beat the other three. And not just as some kind of lucky one-off, you need to be as competitive with them as they are with each other. Beating FSU was the first step down that road. Beating Florida or Miami (as unlikely as either one of those would be this year) would be another.

Winning those games would help recruiting too, but in a different way. You must be able to beat those three teams if you want to get some of the really top-shelf, five-star talent. It gets you taken seriously in every living room in Florida. It might also help the university politically, with people who think that the quality of your football team equals the quality of your academics and research. And it could convince casual or unconnected fans that USF is a big-time college football program, a team worth investing their money in.

So... which way would you go? If you want to explain your choice in the comments, we'd love to hear your reasoning.