IF YOU’RE LOOKING FOR THE THURSDAY 12/3/11 GAME, GO
PREDICTION WITH ANALYSIS
South Florida Bulls (3-2, 2-3 ATS) at No. 25 West Virginia Mountaineers (4-1, 3-2 ATS), Week 7 NCAA Football, Thursday October 14th, 7:30PM Eastern Milan Puskar Stadium Morgantown, W.V.
By Jay Horne, Professional Sports Handicapper of Predictem.com
Betting Odds: WVU -12/USF +12
Over/Under Total: OFF
The no. 25 West Virginia Mountaineers climbed their way back into the Top 25 with a thrashing win over UNLV last week 49-10. It was the Mountaineers first game since their nail biting loss to the still undefeated no. 9 LSU Tigers. West Virginia will now return to the national stage this Thursday night when they host Skip Holtz’s South Florida Bulls. For the Bulls, it would be a great time to get some revenge in the national spotlight after suffering an embarrassing loss to Syracuse last week 13-9. It was the Bulls worse performance of the season and they will desperately try to avoid falling back to the .500 mark on the season when they head into Morgantown this Thursday night.
For the Mountaineers, they are appearing more and more like a great football team. If you take a glance at their remaining schedule, there is not one game remaining that they can not win and ultimately take down the Big East crown. Still things must be put into perspective and that starts this Thursday with an angry South Florida team. The area where West Virginia really holds the advantage is on defense. The Mountaineers rank 7th in the country in total defense holding opponents to just 254 yards per game. West Virginia also ranks 7th in scoring defense holding opponents to 13.60 points per game. South Florida only managed 219 yards against a solid Syracuse defense last week and they could have similar troubles again this Thursday night.
South Florida is a running football team that averages 176 yards per game on the ground. QB B.J. Daniels simply has not progressed into the passer the offense needs for them to be a dynamic group. On the season, Daniels has completed just 52% passing with 4 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. Therefore, the Bulls have been rather one-dimensional with their ground attack. The duo of senior Moise Plancher and sophomore Demetris Murray have compiled the most damage on the ground. Both backs have tallied just less than 300 yards on the season while sporting a 5 yard per carry average combined. However, South Florida will still be running into the strength of the West Virginia defense that ranks 9th in America holding opponents to just 86 yards per game the ground.
Therefore, I will say B.J. Daniels will be the x factor in this game. Daniels has shown flashes of good and bad throwing the football. If South Florida is going to truly challenge in this game, Daniels will have to make a few plays to keep the West Virginia defense off the line of scrimmage. South Florida lacks a go to guy at wide out, but they have a pair of guys in Dontavia Bogan and Evan Landi that can do justice if left unattended. However if Daniels continues to struggle, the West Virginia defense will focus on the run which will make it very difficult for the Bulls to move the football yet again this week.
On the Mountaineers offensive side of the football, they definitely have some talent at the skill positions. Starting with senior tailback Noel Devine who has posted 475 yards on the season, the West Virginia rushing offense has been solid. Devine suffered a toe injury in the loss to LSU that has continued to aggravate him. Devine carried the ball just 3 times against UNLV but racked up 86 yards and 2 scores in that game. Devine will have a bigger role this Thursday night against a solid South Florida defense and they hope Devine will be at 100% come game time. However, the Mountaineers can also throw the football when needed as well. QB Geno Smith has been strong this season completing 66% passing with 1139 yards for 12 scores and just 2 picks. Smith has been very consistent and done a good job of getting the ball in the hands of his playmakers. Wide out Tavon Austin is an extremely talented individual who has 27 catches for 366 yards this season and is the go to guy on the outside. Also, Jock Sanders is another dangerous guy that deserves attention in the passing game as well with 26 catches for 286 yards on the season.
It’s easy to see on paper that West Virginia has a balanced offense that can move the ball both in the air and on the ground. However do not be fooled, South Florida has a very good defense that ranks in the top 20 in just nearly every defensive category. The Bulls have only relinquished 16 points per game this season so things will not be easy for the Mountaineers. One thing I am interested to see is how the South Florida secondary matches up with the West Virginia receivers. South Florida ranks 12 in the nation in pass defense, but they have also not been tested by any respectable passing offenses to date this season. The Bulls pass defense has not seen a tandem like Austin and Sanders thus far this season. I believe West Virginia will exploit the pass defense this Thursday night showing they are not quite as good as the numbers on paper and that will put the Mountaineers over the top.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Even though I like West Virginia straight up, this will be a tough cover giving up 12 points. I believe South Florida will be ready to play considering the circumstances on Thursday night in front of the nation and coming off a home loss. I expect them to bounce back and play well. It may not be good enough to win, but I like them to keep it between the numbers. Take South Florida +12.