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South Florida's win a paradigm shift for Sunshine State football

A paradigm just shifted in the Sunshine State.

If you're a faithful SI.com reader, you understand the importance of South Florida's 17-7 win Saturday at Florida State. USF, the pesky little brother program that began play in 1997 and rammed itself into a BCS conference using players Florida, FSU and Miami didn't want, has now ascended to the same level as the Big Three.

All Bulls coach Jim Leavitt needed was a head-to-head win against one of the Big Three to fundamentally alter recruiting in the state. Before Saturday, recruits automatically dropped the Bulls the minute Florida, FSU or Miami showed interest. Now, when FSU comes to Tampa, Lakeland, Bradenton or Sarasota to recruit a player on USF's list, Leavitt can ask that recruit a legitimate question: Why go to Tallahassee when you stand a better chance of winning in Tampa?

To add insult to injury for Florida State, the Bulls beat the Seminoles on Saturday not with star quarterback Matt Grothe, but with redshirt freshman B.J. Daniels, who replaced Grothe after the senior suffered a season-ending knee injury. FSU coaches were plenty familiar with Daniels, who lit up defenses for Tallahassee's Lincoln High. But none of the Big Three wanted Daniels, so guess where he went?

Saturday, Daniels threw for 215 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. He also ran for 124 yards. More importantly, USF's defensive line dominated FSU's offensive front, sacking quarterback Christian Ponder five times.

So now that USF has made history, the Bulls have to avoid repeating their history. On Sept. 28, 2007, the Bulls shocked West Virginia. Two weeks later they rose to No. 2 after beating Florida Atlantic and UCF. Then they lost their next three games -- all in the Big East.

Saturday's win will help recruiting, but the Bulls won't see any tangible results until at least next year. But USF also proved Saturday it it has the athletes to win the Big East. So instead of celebrating the win against FSU, the Bulls need to concentrate on beating Syracuse next week and taking the first step toward the program's next paradigm shift.

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