TAMPA. (AP) - South Florida's Skip Holtz once coached at Connecticut, sharing a vision of the then-upstart Huskies eventually competing for bowl bids and prospering on college football's highest level.
He's followed the program from afar over the past dozen years, admiring the accomplishments of his successor, Randy Edsall, and would be downright ecstatic about UConn being in position to earn its first Bowl Championship Series berth if USF wasn't the opponent standing in the way Saturday night.
Holtz coached at UConn from 1994-98, when the Huskies were a NCAA Division I-AA program with plans to go Division I.
"I am a fan of the program, excited to see what they've done - especially knowing how many people said: 'College football will never work in New England, you'll never be able to do it here, you'll never be able to get it done,'" Holtz said.
"To see the success they've had, all the progress they've made, and the facilities they've built, it's really one of those things where you kind of sit back, and it's rewarding ... knowing that you had a just a little piece of history there."
Connecticut (7-4, 4-2) and South Florida (7-4, 3-3) are among five teams remaining in contention for at least a share of the Big East championship on the final day of the regular season. The Huskies will clinch the league's automatic BCS berth with a win or losses earlier in the day by West Virginia and Pittsburgh.
UConn, which has won four straight games to climb into contention after starting 0-2 in league play, shared the conference title in 2007, when West Virginia earned the BCS spot.
"This game's no different than the last four that we've played. We've been playing one-game seasons for the last five games now," Edsall said.
"If we lost we were out. ... If you win, you move on, if you don't win, you don't get as big a prize. ... Now if we win, we win a championship. And with that championship goes the reward of a BCS game."
Like UConn, South Florida overcame losing its first two conference games to get back into the Big East race. But a loss to Pitt two weeks ago stopped a three-game winning streak and eliminated the prospect of the Bulls winding up with the BCS berth.
Holtz rejected the notion that USF is a potential spoiler Saturday night.
"We're not playing to spoil somebody else's year, we're playing to make ours," Holtz said.
"This is one of the ones where you look back now and think: 'You know what, if you're able to make one more play in the Pitt game or one more play in the Syracuse game, you'd be sitting here playing this game for a BCS bid. ... Unfortunately we weren't able to get it done. But it's not going to change or diminish the way we approach this game. ... This is not trying to take something away from Connecticut. This is trying to make something for South Florida."
UConn revived its hope largely by handing the ball to Big East rushing leader Jordan Todman, who's also second in the nation at 148.1 yards per game. After running for 1,188 yards a year ago, he's rushed for 1,481 yards and 14 touchdowns as a junior.
The Huskies know what's at stake, but insist they aren't treating South Florida different from any other opponent they've faced down the stretch.