A closer look at South Florida

First-year USF coach Skip Holtz is going back to familiar territory for the postseason.

His Bulls were invited to play Clemson in the Meineke Car Care Bowl on Dec. 31 in Charlotte, N.C.

Holtz, of course, coached five seasons at East Carolina in Greenville, N.C., about 200 miles from the bowl site.

His Pirates never played in the game, which has matched an ACC team against a Big East opponent in seven of the eight years it has been played.

But this will be USF's second appearance in the Meineke Car Care game. The Bulls lost to North Carolina State in the game in 2005, their first year in the Big East.

This will be the Bulls' first meeting with Clemson.

Both teams are coming off disappointing losses in their regular-season finales, the Tigers to rival South Carolina 29-7, a loss that dropped them to 6-6 on the season.

The Bulls lost to Big East colleague Connecticut 19-16 on a 52-yard field goal with 17 seconds remaining.

Holtz said he expects his Bulls, who are 7-5, to bounce back from that deflating defeat.

"They'll be excited to play in the bowl game," he said immediately after the loss. "But right now, when you put that much into it, play that hard and work that hard, losing hurts."

PLAYERS TO WATCH: WR Dontavia Bogan has been about the only reliable receiver the Bulls have had to anchor their passing attack. Despite missing one game with an ankle injury, he had 46 catches, as many as the next two receivers (Evan Landy and Lindsey Lamar) combined. They were good for 670 yards and five touchdowns.

* QB B.J. Daniels sat out the last half of the game at Miami and the entire game against Connecticut with a leg injury. Though his backup, freshman walk-on Bobb Eveld, certainly had his moments, Daniels still gives the Bulls the best chance for success on offense. He adds a running threat (237 yards) to the offense.

* WR/KR Lindsey Lamar ran back two kickoffs for touchdowns and averaged 28.1 yards on 30 returns. That put him second in the Big East.

* Coach Skip Holtz is in his first season at USF but is no stranger to postseason play. His East Carolina teams played in the postseason the last four years, winning the 2007 Sheraton Hawaii Bowl over Boise State. His ECU team lost to USF 24-7 in the 2006 Papajohns.com Bowl. His last two Pirate teams lost to Kentucky and Arkansas in Liberty Bowl appearances. Holtz also had extensive bowl experience as an assistant at Notre Dame under his father, Lou Holtz.

BOWL HISTORY: USF is making its sixth consecutive bowl trip, having won its last two. The Bulls beat Northern Illinois in last season's International Bowl and handled Memphis the year before in the St. Petersburg Bowl. Their last loss was to Oregon in the 2007 Sun Bowl. Overall, the Bulls are 3-2 in bowls, with one of the defeats to North Carolina State in the 2005 Meineke Car Care Bowl.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "This group has worked extremely hard throughout the year, so a trip to Charlotte is the perfect way to finish off the season." -- Coach Skip Holtz, on USF's invitation to play in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.

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