Preview: West Virginia - USF

Neither team is where it thought it would be heading into the last game of the regular season, but the West Virginia - USF game shouldn't lack in competitive fire because of that.

BlueGoldNews.com Game Scorecard
Sat 12/6/08 8:00 PM

Morgantown, WV

Mountaineer Field
Record: 7-4
BCS: NR
Last Game
Pitt L 15-19
TV: ESPN2
Radio: Sirius, MSN
Web
BlueGoldNews.com
Record: 7-4
BCS: NR
Last Game
UConn W 17-13
Rosters/ Bios
Press Release
Season Stats
2008 Schedule

Series: USF 2-1
First Meeting: 2005
Last Meeting: 2007
Rosters/Bios
Press Release
Season Stats
2008 Schedule

Click for Morgantown, West Virginia Forecast


INJURIES

WVU - Anthony Leonard (Ankle) Probable, Mike Dent (Neck) Out

USF - Jacob Sims (Ankle) Questionable, Joe Herzhauser (Knee) Out


GAME OUTLOOK

WVU Offense vs. USF defense

The USF defense is loaded with talent and speed, especially up front. In total team defense, USF ranks 14th nationally and second in the Big East. This defense can be disruptive in the passing game as well, and as most Mountaineer fans know South Florida has had the blueprint for slowing down the Mountaineer offense. This defense is an active, penetrating group, and relies on man coverage on wideouts. This allows them to bring more defenders into the box and force teams to throw to win.

The defense is lead by George Selvie, one of the premier pass rushers in all of college football. Long and lean at 6-4 and 250 pounds, Selvie is fast and can run around most offensive tackles. He has been hampered a bit by injuries this year and has has had to fight through countless double- and triple-teams, but has still managed to lead the team in sacks with five and tackles for a loss with 11. One of the beneficiaries of all the concern about Selvie is senior Jarriett Buie, who has finally overcome injury and academic woes to become a productive complement at the opposite end. One of the defense's strongest players at 6-4 and 255 pounds, Buie is right behind Selvie with 4 1/2 sacks and 7 1/2 tackles for loss.

Playing on the inside for the Bulls are Aaron Harris and Terrell McClain. While Harris is not of prototypical size for an inside lineman, the 6-4, 275-pounder used his speed and quickness to rack up 5.5 tackles for a loss to go along withtwo sacks. McClain is the biggest of the interior linemen at 6-3 and 306 pounds; he's also surprisingly light on his feet, a combination that signals a promising future. This season McClain has three sacks and 2 1/2 tackles for a loss.

Like the rest of the South Florida defense, the linebacking corps has speed to burn and is very good making plays laterally. The linebackers are lead by Tyrone McKenzie, who has a team-best 94 tackles. McKenzie has a knack for getting into the backfield quickly and has 11 tackles for a loss this season. McKenzie was an All-Big East selection last season and is the next in a growing line of star USF linebackers. He is looking for his third straight season with more than 100 stops. Playing alongside McKenzie is Kion Wilson, who has stepped up due to injuries to others, including Bruce Mompremier, to play well this season.

The good news for the Mountaineers in the sceondary is that Mike Jenkins and Trae Williams are now playing on Sundays but that doesn't mean the backfield is any less effective. Enter Jerome Murphy and Tyller Roberts, both of whom have played well this year. Murphy is second on the team in tackles with 59 and has two interceptions on the season. Murphy is a super athlete who is fast and can jump out of the stadium. His cover skills are suspect at times but overall he is a solid cornerback. Roberts is a big physical corner at 6-1, 195 pounds and rarely gets beaten on deep balls.

Junior Nate Allen and senior Carlton Williams have a chance to be at safety what Jenkins and Williams were at corner. Allen has flashed the athleticism and playmaking skills of a former high school quarterback while racking up 45 tackles and one interception. At strong safety, Williams is a 6-4, 214-pound enforcer entering his fourth season as a starter. Especially tough in run defense, Williams has 49 tackles this season to go along with a team-leading three interceptions.

This defense is one of the few in the country that can really neutralize the team speed of West Virginia. It has also had great success in the two previous seasons against this offense, so West Virginia will certainly be in for a challenge. WVU's offense has struggled at times this season as it has never established an identity. The key will be Pat White's arm because this defense will be geared up to take away the run.

By The Numbers
WVU Scoring Offense 25.0 ppg, Rushing Offense 224.3 ypg, Passing Offense 134.8 ypg
USF Scoring Defense 21.2 ppg, Rushing Defense 93.9 ypg, Passing Defense 198.9 ypg

Advantage: USF

WVU Defense vs. USF Offense

The South Florida offense is averaging 420.5 yards per game which ranks them 32nd nationally. The Bulls are also putting up a respectable 28.3 points per game while averaging 261.3 yards through the air as well and 159.2 yards per game on the ground. With that said, the South Florida offense has struggled at times this year due in large part to turnovers. They have not converted scoring chances, and have struggled to consistently capitalize in the red zone.

South Florida is lead by quarterback Matt Grothe. While hardly the quarterback archetype at 6-0 and 213 pounds, he's an effective improviser that won't shy away from contact, a trait that inspires his teammates. Grothe is on pace to lead the team in both rushing and passing for the third straight season. He generally is at his best when he is outside of the pocket, where he can either tuck the ball and run or find an open receiver downfield. This season Grothe has thrown for 2,486 yards and 15 touchdowns, but has also thrown 12 interceptions while rushing for 444 yards. He has had the tendency to make poor decisions in the pocket which have lead to some costly interceptions, but all in all Grothe is South Florida's best weapon on offense.

The main option out of the backfield for the Bulls is sophomore Mike Ford. Ford is good blend of power and speed at 6-2, 225 pounds. This season Ford has rushed for 311 yards on 80 carries. Ford has played in nine games this season, but has missed some time due to injury. The second option is junior Moise Plancher, who has rushed for 291 yards this season. Plancher is 5-9 and 200 pounds, and is a good north-south runner. Neither of these backs are in the league that LeSean McCoy from Pitt is in, so it will be highly unlikely to see a Bull back rush for 170 yards on Saturday.

The two top receivers for the Bulls are Jesse Hester and Taurus Johnson. Hester is the cousin of NFL star Devin Hester and is USF's leading receiver. Hester has 50 receptions this season for 524 yards and three touchdowns. At six feet and 175 pounds, he ia a threat downfield as well as on quick receiver screens. Johnson complements Hester with 34 catches for 448 yards. At 6-1 and 204 pounds, he's the unit's most dynamic playmaker, boasting 4.4 speed and the ability to sky above defenders and pluck balls out of the air.

On the offensive line sophomore Jacob Sims has had some trouble with pass blocking at the right tackle spot, but has continued to improve since coming to the program as a walk-on. At left tackle, senior Marc Dile, who enters his third year as a starter is a leading light. A nimble athlete at 6-4 and 309 pounds, Dile lead the team last season with 80 knockdowns.

Senior Jake Griffin was the line's biggest surprise a year ago. Griffin is more physical than most centers at 6-4 and 307 pounds, and posses good upper body strength, allowing him to drive defenders off the ball on running plays. Senior Ryan Schmidt has started 20 consecutive games at left guard since transferring from Kansas State. A nnasty, 6-5, 327-pounder, the All-Big East Second Teamer has earned a reputation as an enforcer in the trenches. On the right side will be 6-3, 313-pound sophomore Zach Hermann, who has played well for a first-year starter.

By The Numbers
WVU Scoring Defense 16.7 ppg, Rushing Defense 131.9 ypg, Passing Defense 190.8 ypg
USF Scoring Offense 28.3 ppg, Rushing Offense 159.2 ypg, Passing Offense 242.0 ypg

Advantage: West Virginia

WVU Special Teams vs. USF Special Teams

Junior Delbert Alvarado will handle the punting duties for the Bulls. So far this season Alvarado is averaging 40 yards per punt with a long of 55 yards. Maikon Bonani is the field goal kicker this year and on the season he has made 13 of 19 attempts.

Senior Marcus Edwards runs back punts for USF. He has 28 returns this year for 220 yards. The team leader in kickoff returns is Dontavia Bogan, a sophomore receiver who has 25 returns for 652 yards, an average of 26 yards per return.


Despite superiority in most categories, WVU's woeful kickoff coverage team puts them in a hole after each score, and gives oppsoing teams far too much of a boost when momentum should be swinging the other way.

By The Numbers
WVU Net Punting 40.8 ypp, Kickoff Returns 21.2 ypr , Punt Returns 8.2 ypr
USF Net Punting 36.8 ypp, Kickoff Returns 22.4 ypr , Punt Returns 10.1 ypr

Advantage: USF


PICKS TO CLICK

On Offense: Patrick White

On Defense: Brandon Hogan


PREDICTION

Once again I am going to pick West Virginia to win as I have all year. I still firmly believe that this team could have won every game on its schedule, but it didn't work out that way. In a perfect world this game will be close heading into the fourth quarter until White, in his last game as a Mountaineer, drops back to pass and takes off leaving USF defenders in his wake as he breaks off a 50 yard touchdown run to seal the game. In reality, USF may not have been the team most thought they would be this year but they still have a lot of talent on both sides of the ball. This game will be close but in the end the emotions of senior night will win out.

WVU - 24 USF - 17


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