Tonight, South Florida travels to New Jersey to take on the Rutgers Scarlet Knights.
For WVU to have at least a puncher’s chance in the Big East title race, Rutgers has to win.
To claim the Big East outright, the Mountaineers need a) to win the rest of their games; and b) to see USF lose two league games.
WVU could also “win” the Big East—i.e. get the Big East’s BCS bowl bid—if South Florida loses one league game but drops below WVU in the BCS rankings.
This year’s Rutgers team is not last year’s Rutgers team—amazing what the loss of one superb blocking fullback (Brian Leonard) can mean in college football.
That said, three factors give me cause for hope:
a) I would be surprised to see a Greg Schiano team lose three home games in a row.
b) Rutgers still has Ray Rice and a pretty good defense.
c) Even though I think WVU will easily beat Rutgers later this year, the Knights may actually be a tougher matchup for South Florida than WVU proved to be.
South Florida’s speedy defense is the perfect answer to WVU’s spread offense. WVU’s offense goes sideways before it goes forward; it's designed find seams and break long plays, with quick backs outrunning the defense.
Rutgers runs a much more conventional I-formation. The Knights grind out yards between the tackles, thus neutralizing the sideline-to-sideline speed of opposing defenses.
The South Florida defenders probably couldn't run down Steve Slaton or Pat White, but they didn’t need to—Slaton and White never got loose.
The South Florida defenders could easily run down Ray Rice, but that doesn’t matter.
Of course, Bulls’ quarterback Matt Grothe could continue to hone his Tebow Jr. act with another 300/100 game.
And if that happens, WVU will have to start rooting for the Cincinnati Bearcats (at South Florida Nov. 3).
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