Preview: South Florida

West Virginia opens Big East play with its thorniest foe since conference reshuffling. Game Scorecard
Thu 10/14/10 7:30 PM

Morgantown, WV

Mountaineer Field
Record: 4-1
Coaches' Poll: 25
Last Game
UNLV W 49-10
Radio: MSN
Record: 3-2
Coaches' Poll: NR
Last Game
%%MATCH_37%% L 13-9
Rosters/ Bios
Press Release
Season Stats
2010 Schedule

Series: USF 3-2
First Meeting: 2005
Last Meeting: 2009
Press Release
Season Stats
2010 Schedule

Click for Morgantown, %%MATCH_36%% Forecast


WVU – CB Brandon Hogan (Bicep), Probable; OL Josh Jenkins (Knee), Probable; DL Donovan Pearson (Knee), Questionable.

USF – S Mistral Raymond (Quad), Probable; WR Sterling Griffin (Ankle), Probable; S Jerrell Young (Ankle), Questionable; RB Joel Miller (Undisclosed), Questionable; OL Jamar Bass (Ankle), Questionable; G John McGhin (Hip), Questionable; WR A.J. Love (Knee), Questionable.


WVU Offense vs. USF defense

South Florida doesn't have the stud rush ends it once did, and West Virginia's offense uses its options vastly better than it did in the majority of seasons in which it lost to the Bulls. That written, two new starters along the defensive front has meant a lack of pressure on the pocket and more time for teams to throw. USF can't give Geno Smith the time it has other quarterbacks, especially with an entirely new secondary. Smith and his plethora of receivers should be able to make enough plays to loosen up the front seven enough to run and not allow USF to stack the line as it has in past series successes. West Virginia's concern in this game is much like South Florida's: the Mountaineers need to refrain from beating themselves. Turnovers deep inside their own territory, untimely interceptions, poor execution in certain phases that break down plays. WVU should be able to run the ball. Florida ripped USF for 251 rushing yards using mainly power. That's not WVU's game, but it will mix in doses of Ryan Clarke and Matt Lindamood with Noel Devine while challenging the new Bulls' front. From there, a bit of misdirection and the pass game should open up areas to exploit. West Virginia has yet to string together a really impressive running game, but it might be able to do so here.

Its passing offense will have to strike when it can, as South Florida's pass defense ranks first in the league. But something is nagging about four new starters and not having yet played a team with a quarterback the caliber of Smith. He slides well in the pocket, continues to look downfield and has a very good touch. Part of South Florida's success has been its five interceptions. Smith hasn't been prone to force throws, though, and as long as he continues to play within himself and the offense, that should continue. USF, again, doesn't have the closing speed it once did, and West Virginia should be able to mix plays enough to move the ball. Terrell McClain is a major player at tackle, and David Bedford and Craig Marshall are decent at the ends – but no George Selvie or Jason Pierre-Paul. There's a new sophomore starter at linebacker in team-leading tackler Sam Barrington, and Jerrell Young is solid at free safety, a key in any defense. Looking on paper and through five games, there doesn't seem to be the same push up front, overall speed and playmaking ability as USF has had in the past. For WVU, it is more dynamic, has good playmakers, a very good quarterback and tailback and above-average speed with some muscle as needed. That's a nice combo in any situation, but especially here when portions of the offense could be limited. Not all of it though, and not for 60 minutes. Like USF, if West Virginia doesn't turn the ball over it gives itself a nice chance to win.

By The Numbers
West Virginia USF
Scoring Offense 29.8 ppg Scoring Defense 16 ppg
Rushing Offense 163 ypg Rushing Defense 146 ypg
Passing Offense 229 ypg Passing Defense 155 ypg

Advantage: West Virginia

WVU Defense vs. USF Offense

South Florida scored effectively against the lower level foes it has faced. But against Florida and Syracuse, the Bulls managed just 14 and nine points, respectively. The offense is, again, predicated around being able to run the ball well enough to open the passing game. And having a rushing quarterback, which has bothered WVU in the past should aid USF. But B.J. Daniels has made poor decisions on where to go with the ball at times this year, and has four TDs against seven picks in coordinator Todd Fitch's offense. West Virginia is much improved in the secondary and along the line, and it should be able to contain Daniels running. Whether it can do the same with back Demetrius Murray, who has exploded on the scene and 6.2 yards per carry and 65 per game, remains to be seen. Few teams have run upon the Mountaineers this year, but USF will field the most dynamic offense WVU has played to date. With fellow tailback Mo Plancher (57.8 ypg) and Marcus Shaw, Fitch (a WVU volunteer assistant in 1989) has a decent stable of backs to work behind an experienced-laden line (all five starters return). The interior contest between Chris Nield and USF center Sampson Genus and guards Chaz Hine and Jeremiah Warren will be a key. Nield should be able to hold his own there against a couple All-Big East players, but if the Bulls can get a push and get into WVU's linebackers, they could run reasonably – which would significantly aid Daniels.

The sophomore signalcaller will need the ground game. Besides the touchdown-to-interception ratio, Daniels has completed just more than 50 percent of his passes and doesn't have the major downfield threats he is accustomed to. USF ranks seventh in the Big East in passing offense and didn't threaten Syracuse much with the deep ball. Sophomore Evan Landi, 6-3, 221-pounds, has been a prime target thus far and is averaging almost 20 yards per catch. Freshman Stephen Bravo-Brown averages more than 10 yards per catch, and Dontavia Bogan has two receiving scores and is averaging 58 yards per game in the air. This is a solid, though young, wideout corps. But it doesn't have some of the big play threats and needs to move the ball in smaller chunks. West Virginia needs to limit South Florida on first and second downs to force Daniels into uncomfortable throwing situations. Setting up continual third and two to three yards would be a big boost for an offense that would like to run to control the ball, keep West Virginia's offense off the field and limit the chances it needs to take. USF has turned the ball over 10 times in five games. West Virginia could use a couple picks; Daniels needs to play under control and make solid decisions. This game will be close if South Florida limits turnovers and mistakes or, in short, doesn't beat itself.

By The Numbers
West Virginia USF
Scoring Defense 13.6 ppg Scoring Offense 27.4 ppg
Rushing Defense 86.8 ypg Rushing Offense 176.2 ypg
Passing Defense 167.8 ypg Passing Offense 161 ypg

Advantage: West Virginia

WVU Special Teams vs. USF Special Teams

The Bulls have a solid kickoff returner in Lindsey Lamar (33 ypr average), and punt returner Terrence Mitchell has averaged more than 30 yards per return four games into the season. Those numbers were lessened against Syracuse, but South Florida has enough speed in the special teams game to cause West Virginia problems. The Mountaineers haven't yet been tested by a solid foe after its placekicking issues against %%MATCH_40%%, and it remains to be seen if the line can hold up against a solid interior push. WVU appears a bit better in the field goal accuracy, though USF might have found a decent placekicker in Maikon Bonani (three of four FG) after Eric Schwartz missed four of his first five attempts this season. West Virginia must remain in its lanes and break up the blocking schemes on punt and kickoff coverage and maintain solid line play up front to win this category. WVU also needs to narrow the punt exchange gap, as the Bulls are among the best in the Big East at close to a 40-yard net per punt. West Virginia is averaging in the mid-30s and rising, but is still in the lower half of the league. With a couple exchanges by both teams, that's a 15-yard edge to the visitors. There are a lot of unknowns going into this one, perhaps a bit more on the home side.

By The Numbers
West Virginia USF
Net Punting 37.4 yards Net Punting 39.3 yards
KO Returns 19 yards per return KO Returns 21.8 yards per return
Punt Returns 12.1 yards per return Punt Returns 15.2 yards per return

Advantage: USF


On Offense: Noel Devine.

On Defense: J.T. Thomas.


West Virginia should be able to at least manufacture a decent running game against the Bulls depending upon how it attacks. WVU's strength isn't lining up and pounding, but there will be times this game it needs to do so. The majority, though, it will be matching its speed and upgraded passing game against the similar speed overall speed and very solid South Florida secondary. That means doses of Ryan Clarke and some power mixed with misdirection and hitting passing plays across the defense and down the field as the match-ups present. Defensively, it must contain B.J. Daniels much more effectively than it did last season while covering better as well. The first part should be reasonable, as WVU has solid line play and speed along the linebackers and spur and bandit slots. It also has an excellent edge rusher it can utilize at times in Bruce Irvin. But if it can't cover downfield, most of that won't make any difference. Look for the Mountaineers to play better in the secondary than it did in Tampa last year and for it to hold USF to between 17 and 24 points. That should be enough to win – if WVU doesn't turn it over multiple times. This is a game in which its foe can defeat it, but it will need help. At home on a Thursday, the Mountaineers get this one.

WVU – 27 USF – 17

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