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USF Bulls face unfamiliar Big East foe in Temple

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Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 03:23 PM
TAMPA -

After challenging the nation's No. 4-ranked team in a fever-pitch home environment, the University of South Florida Bulls are traveling to something completely different.

Saturday afternoon, USF (2-3, 0-1) resumes Big East Conference play against the Temple Owls (1-2), who are back in the league after a seven-season absence. Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Field might be half-full. USF has little familiarity with Temple.

But make no mistake, even though the atmosphere and fan interest are very different, this one is vital for USF.

"We want to compete in this conference and win this conference,'' Bulls senior quarterback B.J. Daniels said. "That's one thing we haven't done. We've had a lot of big wins, but we don't have a championship. That's how you're measured. You've got to take it step by step. Each one of these conference games is huge.''

Temple football does not inspire fear in the hearts of long-time Big East followers. The Owls were 14-75 in league play from 1991-2004 before being booted from the conference for non-competitiveness.

Things have changed.

After going independent, then joining the Mid-American Conference for five seasons, the Owls have posted three straight winning records and two bowl teams.

Temple's second-year head coach is Steve Addazio, Urban Meyer's right-hand man and offensive coordinator at Florida.

"I believe we belong in the Big East and we're recruiting (players) to the Big East,'' Addazio said. "The top-end teams in the MAC are outstanding. But there's top-to-bottom strength and consistency in the Big East. There are no times where Temple can say, 'If we show up and everything goes the way it's supposed to, we can take this game.

"I love the future and how it all looks. It's just going to take some time.''

USF's program was elevated in 2005, when it shifted from Conference USA to the Big East. It has developed some league rivalries against Big East opponents, particularly Louisville and Rutgers.

Temple is more of an unknown quantity.

"You can watch things on film, but you still don't have a very good idea of how you measure up (against Temple),'' USF coach Skip Holtz said. "That's part of the advantage of playing in a conference. You know more about the opponent because you play them every year. You know how their defensive coordinator tried to stop you. You know how they tried to attack you offensively.

"This one is a conference game, but it's just a first game. You don't have a lot of information to draw upon.''

Temple and USF do share one key ingredient.

Both programs play in stadiums where the primary tenant is professional football. Both programs are creating niches in markets that revolve around pro sports.

"Philadelphia is a tough market, a pro town, but these are diehard fans,'' said Addazio, who was a high-school coach in Connecticut when Holtz was head coach at UConn. "It's our responsibility to put a good produce on the field over time. But to think you have three winning seasons and the Philadelphia fans are going to run out of their homes and go to the stadium, that's unrealistic.

"I think over time, if you build it consistently, I think we will have a good place in the sports culture of Philadelphia. If you win football games and put a product on the field that people think is cool to watch, it will happen.''

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