Big East Battle in Tampa: West Virginia Mountaineers at South Florida Bulls

#23 West Virginia Mountaineers at South Florida Bulls
Raymond James Stadium – Tampa, Florida
Thursday, December 1, 2011, 8:00 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN
Opening Line: Pick
Current Line: West Virginia -1 1/2
Opening Total: 56
Current Total: 55
Opening Money Line: South Florida -120 / West Virginia +100
Current Money Line: West Virginia -125 / South Florida +105

West Virginia can clinch at least a share of the Big East title with a road win over South Florida Thursday night. The Mountaineers are 1.5 point favorites.

The 8-3 West Virginia Mountaineers have a chance to win the Big East and a likely trip to the Orange Bowl against either Clemson or Virginia Tech. The Mountaineers have to beat South Florida Thursday night and hope Cincinnati beats UConn on Saturday, which would set up a 3 way tie between West Virginia, Louisville, and Cincinnati at 5-2. West Virginia would win the tiebreaker and grab the BCS bid. South Florida is 5-6 this season under coach Skip Holtz, and will be bowl eligible if they beat West Virginia. After starting off the season 4-0, South Florida has lost 6 of their last 7 games. West Virginia is coached by Dana Holgorsen and has won 3 of the last 4 games. The series between West Virginia and South Florida is tied at 3 games apiece, and the Bulls lead 2-1 in Tampa. West Virginia won last year in Morgantown 20-6.

Last week, West Virginia hosted Pittsburgh in their annual Backyard Brawl. The Mountaineers were 7 point favorites. Pitt took a 17-7 lead at halftime and kicked a field goal early in the third to go up 20-7. West Virginia scored the last 14 points of the game on two short touchdown runs by running back Shawne Alston. The Mountaineers scored with 6 minutes to go to take a 21-20 lead and neither team scored for the rest of the game. Pitt had 2 possessions after that but never advanced past their own 46 yard line. The Mountaineers overcame 3 turnovers in the win. The Panthers had 9 penalties and a turnover. West Virginia had 357 total yards including 244 passing yards from quarterback Geno Smith who had a touchdown pass and no picks. Alston rushed for 34 yards and the 2 touchdowns. Receiver Tavon Austin had 10 catches for 102 yards. Stedman Bailey had 3 catches for 80 yards and a touchdown. Pittsburgh had 296 yards including 159 rushing yards.

The Mountaineers are averaging 468.3 yards a game, including 351.4 passing yards and 116.9 rushing yards. West Virginia is #16 in total offense the passing game is ranked #6 in the country. West Virginia is averaging 35.4 points, which is #20 in college football. West Virginia has 18 turnovers and has allowed 25 sacks. The Mountaineers are 67/165 on third and fourth down conversions, and 44/51 scoring in the red zone with 33 touchdowns. West Virginia is allowing 335.2 total yards a game, including 197.2 passing yards a game. WVU allows 138 rushing yards a game.   The Mountaineers are allowing 26.2 points a game. The Mountaineers have forced 17 turnovers and 26 sacks. West Virginia opponents are 66/187 on third and fourth down conversions, and 35/42 scoring in the red zone with 25 touchdowns. The Mountaineers have 3 defensive/special teams touchdowns, but have given up 5.

Smith is 291/448 passing (65% completion), for 3,497 yards, 25 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions, plus a rushing touchdown. Running back Dustin Garrison has 120 carries, 655 yards, and 5 touchdowns, along with 23 catches for 190 yards. Alston has 72 carries, 332 yards, and 10 touchdowns. Vernard Roberts has 44 carries, 140 yards,  and 3 scores, along with 4 catches. Roberts missed the last 6 games but isn’t listed on the injury report.  Andrew Buie has 38 carries, 127 yards, and a touchdown, along with 9 catches. Bailey has 60 catches, 1,117 yards, and 11 touchdowns.  Austin has 82 catches, 1,009 yards, and 4 touchdowns, along with 9 carries, 129 yards and a rushing touchdown. Austin has just under 2,100 all purpose yards for the Mountaineers, and also has a kickoff return for a touchdown this season. Ivan McCartney has 46 catches, 561 yards, and 3 touchdowns.  Tyler Urban has 2 touchdown catches, and Brad Starks has 4. Starks is out for the season with a knee injury. Kicker Tyler Bitancurt is 48/50 on extra points and 13/18 on field goals with a long of 45 yards. Defensive lineman Joshua Taylor and offensive lineman Josh Jenkins are both out for the season.

Last week South Florida was a 5.5 point favorite at home against Louisville. The Bulls took a 17-10 lead into halftime. However, Louisville stormed back in the second half, outscoring the Bulls 24-7 to win 34-24. South Florida had 3 turnovers and Louisville had one. The Bulls had 311 total yards including 247 passing yards. Quarterback Bobby Evald threw for 210 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Running back Demetris Murray threw a 37 yard touchdown pass in his only attempt of the day. He also had a rushing touchdown and caught 4 passes for 44 yards. Receiver Deonte Welch had 4 catches for 62 yards and a touchdown. Louisville had 373 total yards including 241 passing yards.

South Florida is averaging 437.7 yards a game including 186 rushing yards and 251.7 passing yards a game. The Bulls score 29.5 points a game. South Florida has allowed 14 sacks and has 22 turnovers in 11 games. The Bulls are 66/167 on third and fourth down conversions, and 37/44 scoring in the red zone with 24 touchd0wns. USF is allowing 350.9 yards a game including 105.7 rushing yards and 245.2 passing yards. The Bulls are giving up 22 points a game. USF has forced 23 turnovers and 38 sacks this season. Bull opponents are 75/196 on third and fourth down conversions, and 31/43 scoring in the red zone with 19 touchdowns. South Florida has 4 defensive/special teams touchdowns. The Bulls average 7 penalties a game for 60 yards.

Quarterback B.J. Daniels is 194/321 passing (60.4% completions) for 2,378 yards, 12 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions, along with 122 carries, 578 yards, and 5 touchdowns. Daniels missed the Louisville game with a shoulder injury and is questionable against West Virginia. Eveld will start again if Daniels can’t go. Evald is 37/67 passing with 354 yards, with a touchdown and four interceptions. Running back Darrell Scott has 139 carries, 722 yards, and 5 touchdowns, along with 14 catches, 163 yards, and a touchdown. Murray has 109 carries, 469 yards, and 8 touchdowns along with 17 catches for 209 yards. Receiver Sterling Griffin has 40 catches for 493 yards and 2 touchdowns. Welch has 26 catches, 366 yards, and a touchdown.  Victor Marc has 30 catches, 328 yards, and 2 touchdowns. Andre Davis has 20 catches, 255 yards, and 2 touchdown catches, along with a punt return for a touchdown.  Lindsey Lamar has 11 catches, 157 yards, and 3 touchdowns. Kicker Maikon Bonani is 39/39 on extra points and 17/24 on field goals with a long of 49 yards. South Florida has 18 players listed on the injury report including 10 defensive players. Six players are out for the season.

South Florida is 4-7 against the spread and the total is 6-5 this season. West Virginia is 5-6 ATS and the total is 8-3 this season. The under is 5-1 in the last 6 between the Mountaineers and Bulls, and South Florida is 4-1 ATS in the last 5. West Virginia is 4-0 ATS after failing to cover, 11-0 in road games against teams with losing home records, 5-1 in road games, 3-1 against teams with losing records, 2-5 as a favorite of 3 points or less, 1-4 after a straight up win, and 1-5-1 in December. South Florida is 5-1 ATS as an underdog, 4-1 in December, 1-4 after a straight up loss and against teams with winning records, 1-5 after failing to cover, 1-7 in conference games  and overall, 0-7 in Thursday games, 0-4 in home, and 0-6 on grass.

Both teams need this game for different reasons. West Virginia has been more consistent but they have had some head-scratching performances. I think South Florida is so banged up, that West Virginia should have enough to win a close game.

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