TAMPA - Last night's game with South Florida was the first in a four-game series between Bowling Green and the Bulls.
The Falcons will be back in Tampa in 2006, while South Florida will visit Perry Stadium in 2004 and 2007. Bowling Green athletic director Paul Krebs said the start of the series was moved up to this season when both schools had openings in the schedule.
“We got together and agreed to move it up, and this has turned out to be a much bigger game than we anticipated at the time,” Krebs said. “With the success both teams have enjoyed, it makes for an exciting matchup that has drawn some national attention.”
Bowling Green came into the game 8-1 and ranked No. 25 in the country in the USA Today/ESPN poll. South Florida, an independent, was 7-2, losing only to former No. 1 Oklahoma and Arkansas, both on the road.
Krebs said the series has a significant value for Bowling Green, which had close to 1,000 fans on hand at Raymond James Stadium last night.
He said the trip to the Sunshine State is attractive to BG alums and fans as an escape from Ohio weather, it provides Bowling Green followers in Florida with an opportunity to see the Falcons play and it gives BG a presence in a critical recruiting area.
“If you recruit an area, you want to be able to get a kid back somewhere near there so he has a chance to play in front of his family,” Krebs said. “We also have a large alumni base down here and a number of Ohioans who have moved to Florida. We need to play games in Florida.”
Krebs said that when South Florida moves to Conference USA next season, it will be more difficult to schedule the Bulls. Bowling Green is expected to play new Mid-American Conference football-only member Central Florida in Orlando once in the next five seasons, and Krebs said a game against another Florida team is also a possibility in the future.
“This is a good opportunity for us in a number of ways,” Krebs said. “The kids have the chance to play in a major NFL facility, Bowling Green gets some exposure in a major market in the state of Florida, and this is good for recruiting.”
FALCONS ELIMINATED: After Northern Illinois defeated Eastern Michigan in Ypsilanti yesterday afternoon, Bowling Green was knocked out of contention for the MAC Championship game. Northern Illinois moved to 7-0 in the conference, and the best BG can finish is 7-1. If BG and Northern finish tied, Northern gets the championship game bid since it defeated the Falcons head-to-head. The Huskies finish their MAC schedule with Toledo in DeKalb, Ill. this weekend, and the Rockets need to beat Northern to keep the Falcons in contention for a share of the West. If Toledo beats the Huskies, the Falcons would need to close the season with wins over Eastern Michigan and Toledo to earn a share of the title.
BG's LARGEST FOLLOWING: Bowling Green State University athletic department officials estimated that between 800 and 1,000 tickets were sold to Bowling Green's following for last night's game. That makes up the largest following for an away game this season. It was also the largest visiting contingent for a South Florida game this season, according to USF officials.
SOUTH FLORIDA: The Bulls are in just their sixth season of playing football on the intercollegiate level and only their second as a member of Division I-A. South Florida competes as an independent, but will play as a member of Conference USA next year. The Bulls are 2-0 against Conference USA this season, beating Memphis 31-28 and defeating East Carolina 46-30.
Earlier this year, South Florida beat MAC West leader Northern Illinois 37-6 in Tampa. The Bulls' only losses came at Oklahoma (31-14) and at Arkansas (42-3).
SOMETHING IN COMMON: Like Bowling Green head coach Urban Meyer, South Florida coach Leavitt was a two-sport standout before his coaching days. Meyer played football at Cincinnati and played minor league baseball. Leavitt was All-Big Eight in both football and baseball at Missouri.