It comes down to this for South Florida.
Win the Thursday night home game against West Virginia or stay home for the holidays.
Considering they opened the season with a victory over Notre Dame, it doesn't seem possible the Bulls should be coming down to their season finale with a 5-6 record and needing a win to get to bowl eligibility.
"We never thought we'd be in this position," senior cornerback Quenton Washington told the Tampa Tribune. "It's a tough pill to swallow. It's something that we got ourselves into, so now it's something that we've got to handle."
The 34-24 loss to Louisville not only put the Bulls on the verge of their first losing record since a 4-7 mark in 2004, it also dropped the Bulls to 1-5 in the Big East, tied with Syracuse for last place.
They need to beat West Virginia just to match their 2-5 conference finish of 2008, which is their worst league mark in their six seasons in the Big East.
The Mountaineers, meanwhile, come into the game with a shot at getting a piece of the Big East title and a berth in a BCS bowl. The first thing that the Mountaineers (8-3, 4-2) need for that to happen is a win over the Bulls.
--USF has had only two losing seasons since it started playing football. One was in the program's first year, a 5-6 mark in 1997. The other was in 2004, when they were 4-7. The Bulls were 6-6 in 2005 and won at least eight games over the next five seasons.
--Despite managing only 311 yards against Louisville, USF remains the second-most productive offense in the conference. The Bulls are averaging just under 435 yards a game.
--The Bulls have yet to lose two in a row in the brief, six-game series with West Virginia.
SERIES HISTORY: USF and West Virginia are tied 3-3 (last meeting, 2010, West Virginia 20-6).
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Without QB B.J. Daniels, USF is struggling to run the football, rushing for only 64 yards in the loss to Louisville. The Bulls had trouble maintaining consistency in the second half against the Cardinals. Of their eight possessions in the last two quarters only one -- their final one -- was longer than five plays.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: USF followed up one of its best defensive efforts of the season in the 6-3 loss to Miami with a less-than-stellar performance against Louisville, especially in the second half. The Cardinals had 373 yards in total offense for the game and had scoring drives of 11 plays (field goal), nine plays twice (both touchdowns) and two plays (touchdown) in the second half.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm the head coach, that's where it starts and that's where it stops. I take responsibility for it." -- Coach Skip Holtz, on how much he holds himself responsible for the Bulls' recent woes.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
THIS WEEK'S GAME: West Virginia at USF, Dec. 1 -- The Mountaineers come into the Thursday night affair with hopes a combination of factors will get them into a BCS Bowl game. They need to finish in a three-way tie with Cincinnati and Louisville to get the top bid. USF, which is trying to climb out of the league cellar, can only play spoiler.
KEYS TO THE GAME: Get the offense moving. It will help if QB B.J. Daniels, who sat out the loss to Louisville nursing a sore shoulder, will be able to return. If not, the Bulls are going to have to find some way to slow West Virginia's offense to keep it a low-scoring game.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
LB DeDe Lattimore -- Lattimore had another strong game with 11 tackles in the loss to Louisville. He leads the team in total tackles (87) and in sacks (7.0). He has been in double figures in tackles in four of the last five games.
DE Ryne Giddins -- Giddins (6.0 sacks) has the ability to get pressure on the quarterback from the outside.
WR Deonte Welch -- He has the capability of making a big play in the receiving game, which may be what the Bulls need to loosen up their running game. Welch had four catches for 67 yards against Louisville, including a 37-yard reception from RB Demetris Murray.
--Junior QB B.J. Daniels did not play against Louisville. He is questionable with a shoulder injury for West Virginia.
--Junior RB Demetris Murray became the first non-quarterback to throw a touchdown pass for the Bulls since Albert Jackson did it in 2005 when he threw a 37-yard strike to WR Deonte Welch in the third quarter.
--Sophomore QB Bobby Eveld got his first start of the year and was 20-of-35 passing for 210 yards with one touchdown and one interception.