• No. 22 West Virginia @ South Florida, 8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN: On paper, a couple weeks ago, this looked like fun. The conference’s top rushing offense and top passing offense, colliding in primetime! B.J. Daniels by land, and Geno Smith by air, in Tampa by the sea! Daniels, however, has a traitorous shoulder that’s decided to deprive all of us of our fun. He sat out last week’s Bulls-Cardinals tilt and will reportedly be a game-time decision tonight. If the way Skip Holtz handled this injury last week is any indication, don’t look to learn too much more from official school channels before kickoff.
What this will cost the Bulls: Daniels is the team’s second-leading rusher. They’ve still got Darrell Scott, but he’s only broken 100 yards once this season. That’s good news for the ‘Eers, who’ve been more giving against the run. In Daniels’ stead if he’s out: Sophomore Bobby Eveld, who’s played in about half the games this season, largely on mop-up duty. His first start came last week against Louisville, and he threw for 210 yards, a touchdown and a pick versus the Cardinals. He’s young, and WVU’s pass defense is stingy. Your mileage may vary.
The Bulls might find better footing in chasing down Geno Smith. USF has a sterling sacks and tackles-for-loss record, and the Mountaineers have struggled quite a bit to protect Smith properly. Will a personnel shuffle on the O-line during last week’s Backyard Brawl result in further success this week. All this seems to portend some scoring troubles for the Bulls if they can’t get Maikon Bonani in field-goal range and some smoother sailing for WVU’s scoring machine.
What’s at stake? Just bowl eligibility for the five-win Bulls and a potential BCS berth for West Virginia. How did it come to this? USF lost six of its last seven. It clocked Syracuse, but went 1-5 in conference play. Yes, after knocking off Notre Dame in September! For its part, WVU lost, forgivably, to LSU, and less forgivably to the Orange and Cardinals. And here’s where the scores could really change: With a WVU win tonight and a Cincinnati win over UConn, there’s still time to create a three-way tie in the Big East. The Mountaineers, Bearcats and Cardinals each have two conference losses and have all beaten and lost to one another in perfect, exasperating symmetry. If this plays out, the BCS standings will serve as the conference championship tiebreaker, and the only team in the conference currently ranked is WVU, way down at No. 23. No pressure, y’all. It’s only a game — with the Orange Bowl on the line.