West Virginia Mountaineers at South Florida Bulls (+1.5, 55)
THE STORY: No. 22 West Virginia needs help to qualify for a BCS Bowl game, but the Mountaineers can’t reach that goal or gain a share of the Big East title without a win at South Florida Thursday. The Mountaineers have been victorious three of their last four to give themselves a chance. If West Virginia wins and Cincinnati beats Connecticut, the Mountaineers would forge a three-way with Louisville and Cincinnati. The Mountaineers, who have lost their last two at USF, would have a highest-ranked team in the BCS and gain the bid – most likely to the Orange Bowl. South Florida looked like it would be in the running for that early after winning its first four games, but the Bulls will need a win over West Virginia to become bowl eligible.
LINE: South Florida opened as a 1.5-point favorite, however, action on WVU flipped the odds to have the Mountaineers as 1.5-point road chalk.
ABOUT WEST VIRGINIA (8-3, 4-2 Big East, 5-6 ATS): The Mountaineers would lose out on a BCS bid, due to its 38-35 loss to Louisville, if Cincinnati does not beat UConn. But West Virginia has to focus on the job ahead with quarterback Geno Smith at the helm of its high-powered passing offense. Smith broke single-season school records in yards (3,741), completions and pass attempts in the 21-20 victory over Pittsburgh Friday. Wide receiver Stedman Bailey also broke the single-season school record for yards with 1,117 and Tavon Austin went over 1,000 yards.
ABOUT SOUTH FLORIDA (5-6, 1-5 Big East, 4-7 ATS): Quarterback B.J. Daniels, averaging almost 300 yards of total offense, is still questionable with a sore throwing shoulder but has been feeling better. If Daniels can’t go, Bobby Eveld will get another start. Eveld, a sophomore, was 20-for-35 with 210 yards in the loss to Louisville Friday with a touchdown pass and an interception. The Bulls’ top receiver Sterling Griffin could return from an ankle injury after missing four games. USF will need more than the 64 yards rushing it had last week. The Bulls have lost its last five games by a total of 25 points.
* Under is 5-1 in the last six meetings.
* Mountaineers are 1-4 ATS in their last five meetings.
* Underdog is 4-1 ATS in their last five meetings.
1. USF is second in the nation in sacks and tackles for losses per game.
2. Austin is second in the nation in all-purpose yards.
3. USF has not missed playing a bowl game since 2004.
PREDICTION: West Virginia 31, South Florida 20 – If the Mountaineers can control the pass rush, they should control the game.