West Virginia has been the Big East's most consistent program in the last three years. The Mountaineers won the conference in 2005 (thanks in part to a 28-13 victory over USF) and went on to defeat Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. Last season USF shocked the nation with a 24-19 victory at Morgantown that eliminated the then-No. 7 Mountaineers from the BCS race and helped put the Bulls on the map. The Mountaineers employ a lethal spread-option attack on offense led by quarterback Pat White and running back Steve Slaton, both Heisman contenders. West Virginia's offense is enhance further by wide receiver Darius Reynaud and freshman gamebreakers Jock Sanders (St. Pete Catholic) and Noel Devine (North Fort Myers).
USF, a program largely built on the hard work of its defense, is coming off of a season-high 428-yard performance in its 37-10 victory over North Carolina. Matt Grothe, the 2006 Big East Freshman of the Year, has not thrown an interception all season. He is flanked in the backfield by a plethora of talent running backs including Ben Williams, Mike Ford and Jamar Taylor and has big-play receivers Amarri Jackson and Taurus Johnson to rely upon in the passing game. Jessie Hester proved to be another reliable option when he caught the game-winning touchdown against Auburn.
The strength of the team still lies in a defense that hasn't given up 300 yards in a game this season. Sophomore George Selvie leads the conference with 8.5 sacks through three games and has proven to be among the nation's elite pass rushers. The Bulls also have potential all-conference performers Ben Moffit and Brouce Mompremiere at linebacker. Trae Williams and Mike Jenkins are one of the nation's top cornerback tandems.
Inside the Offense
428 -- The Bulls' season-high yards total in last week's 37-10 victory over North Carolina.
60.4 -- Matt Grothe's completion percentage in 2007.
47 -- Matt Grothe's rushing yards in the 2006 victory over West Virginia. Grothe had 23 carries (including sacks)
4 -- The number of turnovers the Bulls defense forced in last year's victory.
0 -- Number of 100-yard games from a USF running back in 2007. Mike Ford's 83 yards in the season high for a single player.
Running of the Bulls: USF's three-headed attack will get plenty of work Friday night. West Virginia's offense cannot be explosive if it's on the sidelines. Expect double digit carries for at least two of the running backs (not including Grothe) and close to 40 rushing attempts. The Bulls will try to control the clock, move the chains and keep Pat White & Company on the sidelines. Although the Bulls' 154.7 rushing yards per game is respectable, it's sixth in the conference. Expect the Bulls to reach near the 200-yard mark on Friday.
When USF Has the Ball: Don't expect Matt Grothe to call for the snap until the play clock reaches under five seconds. West Virginia's weak point is its defense and they will be trying to jump the snap count and get any advantage possible. Grothe will test their patience by waiting until the final seconds. Also expect Grothe to line up behind center a little more than usual as the Bulls will try to establish a physical advantage against the Mountaineers.
Under the Gun: With the expectation that USF will attempt to try a little more ball control this game, Amarri Jackson will have to make the most of his opportunities in the passing game. Last year he only one reception, but it was a 39-yarder. In USF's last major home win, a 45-14 victory over then-No. 9 Louisville in 2005, Jackson ran for two scores, threw for a touchdown and had 138 yards on four touches. He has proven his ability to shine with the spotlight is on him.
He Said It: "We want to thank our fans, especially our season ticket holders and students for their participation with our football program and for driving our ticket sales to capacity. I know our football coaches and players will appreciate playing in front of one of the largest college football crowds in USF and Tampa history." -- USF Athletic Director Doug Woolard
Inside the Defense
357 -- West Virginia's rushing average per game, No. 2 in the nation.
132 -- The total number of rushing yards given up by USF in last year's 24-19 victory over West Virginia.
67 -- Darius Reynaud's total rushing yards on two carries.
43 -- Steve Slaton's total rushing yards on 18 carries (2.4 average)
17 -- Pat White's total rushing yards on 15 carries (1.1 average)
Mountaineers Will Commit to the Middle: Last year Slaton and White underestimate the speed of the USF defense and tried to break several runs to the outside when the middle wasn't there. Big mistake. This year expect the Mountaineers to do less directional running and commit to north-south running. The middle of the Bulls defense -- Aaron Harris, Richard Clebert, Ben Moffitt, Nate Allen and Carlton Williams will have to be prepared to fend off the athletic Mountaineers offensive line and keep the running game in check.
When West Virginia Has the Ball: Expect a lot of play action passing in the first half. USF has one of the top cornerback tandems in the nation and they will leave Trae Williams and Mike Jenkins in man-to-man coverage to allow the front seven (and occasionally the safeties) to focus on the Mountaineers' multi-dimensional rushing attack. Williams and Jenkins proved they were up for the challenge against Auburn.
Under the Gun: USF cornerback Mike Jenkins is the man to watch. Pat White burned Jenkins with a long touchdown pass in last year's game and he will look in Jenkins' direction on his throws until Jenkins makes him pay.
He Said It: "We know what kind of environment it's going to be, and we've done a good job the last couple weeks of getting better at certain stages, whether it's offense, defense or special teams, but they're so athletic ... and obviously are going to play with a lot of emotion." -- West Virginia head coach Rich Rodriguez.
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