In the final week of the regular season, the Big East Title has yet to be decided. West Virginia heads to South Florida Thursday night to take on the Bulls and if they win, they will be keeping a close eye on a few things that happen Saturday.
Coming off of a thrilling 1-point win over Pitt last Friday, WVU is currently 8-3 (4-2) and tied for first place in the conference. They were able to sack Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri 10 times and it may have been the best defensive performance the Mountaineers have had all season.
On the same day, many West Virginia fans were also big USF fans as they took on Louisville in Tampa. Unfortunately for WVU's BCS hopes, the Bulls fell by 10 and also fell to 5-6 overall and 1-5 in the Big East.
Last season, USF came to Morgantown on a Thursday night and really struggled to get anything going offensively. South Florida quarterback B.J. Daniels threw three interceptions and as a team, they only gained 202 yards of total offense. WVU quarterback Geno Smith put up 219 yards and two touchdowns.
The West Virginia offense is going to have to rely on the arm of Geno Smith this week, just like they have all season long. The Bulls passing defense ranks 38th nationally, giving up 223 yards per game. Their rush defense on the other hand ranks 9th nationally, only giving up 94 yards on the ground per game. Opposing teams are averaging an even 22 points against the USF defense, which is good for 33rd in the country.
"It's a short week so I don't think they'll have time to put any new, exotic things in but we never know," Geno Smith said. "We have to be ready for anything and those guys have a great coaching staff so I'm not going to go out there and not expect a blitz or whatever. They've shown that they will do it and they've shown that they can do it and they have the players to do it."
This has been a tough week of preparation for the West Virginia defense because they aren't exactly sure who will be taking snaps for USF Thursday night. B.J. Daniels was injuried during their game against Miami and did not play a snap against Louisville. He is currently listed as questionable for this week's game. Bobby Eveld has played in Daniels absence and has not played well. He has thrown just one touchdown and four interceptions in limited action.
Daniels has thrown for 2,378 yards and 12 touchdowns with six interceptions this season. He is also a threat with his legs, rushing for 578 yards and five touchdowns. If Daniels does play, the key to the game defensively for WVU will be to make sure he stays in the pocket and the defense keeps contain.
"We know he's an athletic quarterback," Defensive Tackle Julian Miller said. "We know he has tremendous scrambling ability and he can get outside of the pocket. It's almost like playing against an extra running back back there. It's the same preparation we used against him last year. Nothing too different from last year's preparation as far as trying to keep him contained and make the right blitzes inside to help and contain him."
USF's rushing attack has been well balanced between former Colorado running back (faced the Mountaineers in 2009) Darrell Scott and Demetris Murray. They have combined for 1,191 yards and 13 touchdowns this year.
Raymond James Stadium has been a house of horrors for West Virginia in the past. After winning the first meeting there in 2005, WVU has lost two straight in 2007 and 2009 by a combined 19 points. Both games have been sloppy performances by the WVU offense with turnovers and penalties. The series is tied 3-3 overall since USF joined the Big East in 2005.
For West Virginia, they need a win against USF and a Cincinnati win over UCONN Saturday to clinch the BCS berth. If WVU loses and Cincinnati wins, the Bearcats will get the bid. If WVU and UC both lose, Louisville (whose regular season is over) will get the BCS berth.
The game will be Thursday night on ESPN and will begin at 8:00 pm.