Thu 10/14/10 7:30 PM
Coaches' Poll: 25
UNLV W 49-10
Coaches' Poll: NR
Syracuse L 13-9
Series: USF 3-2
First Meeting: 2005
Last Meeting: 2009
It's no secret that the Mountaineer defense has played well this year. But a couple of stats really highlight that fact.
The first underscores a goal West Virginia has emphasized over the past couple of seasons – getting off the field on third down. While WVU's defense has been good under the direction of Jeff Casteel, it has, at times, yielded some long drives nad been unable to come up with three-and-outs. Not so this year, as the Mountaineers are fourth in the nation in forcing foes to give up the ball in three plays or less. WVU has turned that trick 27 times this year, for an average of 5.4 per game. Only Ohio State, TCU, and somewhat surprisingly, Buffalo, have bettered that mark.
Need another one? West Virginia has given up just 61 first downs all year – tops in the country. While that stat doesn't tell the whole story of a defense, it does show that foes haven't been able to consistently drive the ball against the Mountaineers.
Of course, the biggest stat of all is scoring defense, and WVU fares quite well there too. Casteel's troops are yielding just 13.6 points per game. If it can keep that number under 20 the rest of the season, a lot of wins are going to result.
USF has never won more than four games in a Big East conference year. The Bulls were 4-3 in each of their first three seasons in the league (2005-07), then 2-5 in 2008 and 3-4 a year ago.
Does that mean the Bulls have been overrated? Beaten up on weak out of conference foes? Gotten worn down as the seasons have progressed? Just not matched up will with Big East teams (West Virginia excluded?) There are a lot of different directions the analysis of that one factoid can take.
Just for a bit of comparison, WVU has been at least 5-2 in the league for the last eight seasons, and has never finished lower than second over that span.
With eight starters back on offense and just three on defense, USF figured to be able to score points and move the ball consistently, but perhaps struggle stopping opponents, in the early part of the season. Things have played out just the opposite, however.
Defensively, the Bulls are yielding just 16 points per game, and are holding foes to just under four yards per rush. On offense, however, USF isn't the explosive team it has been in the past. It is scoring 27.4 points per outing, but is averaging just 337 yards per game, and has struggled to convert on third down.
One of these trends/streaks will be broken tonight:
1) USF is 0-5 in its last five Thursday night games. Those contests cover a span of three seasons. In all of those games, the Bulls were ranked.
2) The Bulls are 35-19 in their history in games following a loss. New head coach Skip Holtz has also been solid in rallying the troops, as he is 29-16 in games following a defeat.
All three of Keith Tandy's interceptions this year have come on deflections. While there's obviously a bit of luck involved in such plays, it also speaks to the fa
USF is an unblemished 7-0 all-time in overtime games.
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In its most recent media release, USF lists 103 players. Of that total only 15 hail from outside Florida.