There are important nonconference wins. Then there are nonconference wins against in-state rivals that probably belong in a different category.
South Florida has two big ones -- against Miami and Florida State -- during the past two seasons. The Bulls (5-4) have an opportunity to pick up one more Saturday in Tampa against a 5-5 Miami team in a similar spot. Both teams are fighting for bowl eligibility.
Another win would not only get the Bulls to six victories, it would also help them out on the recruiting trail in the critically important state of Florida.
"I said then when it happened a year ago it's going to make a bigger difference in this class than it will in last year's class," USF coach Skip Holtz said. "At that point, a lot of the recruits had already made decisions. But it speaks volumes for the level we're competing at and what the expectations are for our program. It does make a difference in the state of Florida.
"Florida, Florida State and Miami have all won championships. They got a couple year head start on us. We're charging but that's why I think (winning) makes a difference."
USF has only two commitments out of 11 in the 2012 class that are from the Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach areas. Still, Holtz said he has seen a different level of interest from kids in that area since the victory over the Hurricanes last season.
And what a victory it was. Backup quarterback Bobby Eveld came on for an injured B.J. Daniels at halftime and rallied the Bulls to a dramatic 23-20 overtime win. Miami coach Randy Shannon was fired a short time after the game ended.
For many players with ties to Miami on the USF roster, the win was incredibly meaningful. Starting safety Kayvon Webster decided to play for USF on Signing Day in 2009, breaking his longtime commitment to sign with Miami. He grew up rooting for the Hurricanes, but Webster was sold on the idea of being able to make his own history, of laying his own foundation, of trying to take USF to another level.
After an injury to Mistral Raymond, Webster was relied upon heavily in the game last year and he came through with five tackles.
"I had a lot of motivation going into that game," said Webster, heavily recruited out of Pace High School. "My freshman year, I didn't get to play a lot against them. I did a lot of interviews my freshman year going into that game and didn't see the field. Last year, I knew I was going to have to play and it was big for me to be focused and tuned in to go out there and lend a hand in the win."
Even better is the prospect of hosting Miami for the second time in three seasons. The last time the two teams played in Tampa, Miami won 31-10. But the Hurricanes are a different team today than they were in 2009. They have a first-year coach in Al Golden and are coming off an emotionally draining loss to bitter rival Florida State. USF is hoping to catch the Hurricanes at the right time.
"That would be real big for the program to beat Miami two years in a row," Webster said. "That would mean we've shown growth, we're buying into Coach Holtz's plan and everybody's coming together, showing that hard work pays off."