South Florida could be at a critical point in its season as it heads to Saturday's game at Connecticut coming off its first setback of the season, a 27-27 loss to Houston that ended the program's longest winning streak at 12 games and erased whatever slim hopes the Bulls were nurturing regarding the College Football Playoffs.
The Bulls (7-1, 4-1 AAC) can still win the East Division of the American Athletic Conference and play in the league's conference championship game where a win could get them a spot in a New Year's Six bowl game as the highest ranked champion from the Group of Five conferences.
Winning out, including the bowl game, also would give the Bulls a program record 13-win season.
But they have to get over the disappointment of that first defeat.
Coach Charlie Strong expects his players to be ready for the Huskies (3-5, 2-3 AAC).
"I'm not concerned because I know the guys are going to respond very well," he said. "But it's tough. It was tough on the whole team. I've never seen a team so down."
With their fall completely out of the Top 25 of the weekly media poll, the Bulls now have a chip back on their shoulder.
"You want that," Strong said, "because when you have a team playing from behind the 8-ball, you have a team that's hungry. Now they know they have to go back to work."
Strong does have experience with bouncing back. He was an assistant at Florida in 2006 when the Gators lost in the regular season at home to Ole Miss but still came back to win the national championship.
And it's not like the Bulls got manhandled by Houston. The game came down to the final seconds with the Cougars scoring the decisive touchdown after converting a fourth-and-24 play to ignite the winning drive.
Strong said for the Bulls to recover from that is a matter of reviewing the opportunities they had and lost. He had told a week ago to expect a tough challenge, he said.
"So you just make sure you show them the mistakes that we made," Strong said, "and then you say, 'Listen we've got to put this behind us. Don't let yesterday take up too much time of the day. Let's move on.'
"If we're going to be a successful team, can we prevail through disappointment? Can we overcome it? Can we be that team?