So. Florida Bulls (3-2, 0-1 Big East) at #25 West Virg. Mountaineers (4-1, 0-0 Big East)
TV: 7:30 PM, ESPN
Venue: Milan Puskar Stadium (FieldTurf)
Sports.com Line: West Virginia 10 O/U 43.5
For all the success that West Virginia has had recently, they sure have struggled against the South Florida Bulls. In fact, heading into Thursday night’s showdown in Morgantown, the 25th-ranked Mountaineers will be trying to stop a skid that has seen them lose three of the past four to the Bulls.
That said, the West Virginia faithful can take solace in the fact that their program will enter this game – their first Big East tilt of the year – full of confidence. That’s because the last time out (Oct. 9) the Mountaineers pasted UNLV 49-10. The 49 points and the margin of victory were both records for a West Virginia team coached by Bill Stewart and the highest point total in three years for the program.
Yes, it’s safe to say that Stewart and WVU offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen have things clicking right now. Much of the credit for that has to go to the balance of Mullen’s attack. Of the Mountaineers 2,086 yards so far this year, 55% have come through the air and 45% on the ground. Not only is that pretty balanced, it’s much different than many experts expected from West Virginia in 2010.
The difference maker for WVU has clearly been QB Geno Smith, who has quietly been one of the Big East's best signal callers, ranking second in the league with 1,139 yards and 12 touchdowns. Combine that with the production that everyone expected from the Mountaineers’ main weapon – speedy RB Noel Devine – and you can see why WVU is a major headache to game-plan against.
Coming off a home loss to Syracuse in which they could only muster nine points, I think it is safe to say that USF coach Skip Holtz is not feeling the same confidence as West Virginia. It’s a particularly painful loss for the first-year coach considering his predecessor had beaten the Orange the previous five years in a row.
To put it simply, South Florida QB B.J. Daniels has little help and certainly can’t do it alone. The Bulls have few deep threats to pass to and Daniels is clearly their best rusher, although Holtz does his best to get RB Moise Plancher involved.
Another ominous note is that South Florida allowed Syracuse to dent them for 178 rushing yards and it’s safe to say the Orange don’t have anyone nearly as talented as Devine. Add in dangerous WR’s such as Jock Sanders and Bradley Starks and Holtz will need a tremendous game plan to keep Stewart’s bunch contained – especially at home.
That home crowd will likely be calling for revenge considering the 30-19 loss to the Bulls in 2009 as well as L’s in 2006 and 2007 when the Mountaineers were ranked in the Top 10.
For the season, West Virginia has been a moneymaker with a 3-1 ATS record while South Florida has been a loser with a 1-3 record against the number.
Kansas State Wildcats (4-1, 1-1 Big 12) at Kansas Jayhawks (2-3, 0-1 Big 12)
TV: 7:30 PM FSN
Venue: Memorial Stadium (FieldTurf)
Sports.com Line: Kansas State -3 O/U 50.5
Reviewing tape of the recent Kansas State loss to Nebraska must have been extra fun for first-year Kansas coach Turner Gill.
Not only did Gill watch his alma-mater absolutely crush the Wildcats, but he saw them do it in a way that was very familiar to him. Gill, along with other Huskers legends such as Tommie Frazier and Eric Crouch, is one of the great running QBs in Nebraska’s history. Watching film of current Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez rush for four touchdowns in a 48-13 rout must have brought back fond memories for Gill…as well as given him some ideas of how the Wildcats could be exploited this Thursday night in Lawrence, KS.
Then again, while Kansas State coach Bill Snyder isn’t a Baylor grad, he also probably enjoyed film review leading up to this game as he watched the Bears destroy the Jayhawks on Oct. 2 to the tune of 55-7. Needless to say, both coaches probably see some opportunities heading into this one.
Of course, only one team will leave the field Thursday night with their season back on track. At 2-3, there is no question the home team needs this game much more than the visitors from Manhattan as that 7-1 Big 12 record and Orange Bowl Kansas team from 2007 seems like a distant memory.
In his first season in charge of the Jayhawks, Gill certainly has yet to mold his team into the offensive juggernaut he presided over as a player at Nebraska. Kansas is going through some growing pains as QB Jordan Webb and RB James Sims – both freshmen – learn on the job. Webb has shown some promise when given the time and has a trio of capable targets in D.J. Beshears, Daymond Patterson and Johnathan Wilson. However, time is the key, and mostly Gill has seen his offensive line get manhandled up front, leaving his young QB running for his life.
That lack of muscle in the trenches also extends to the defensive side of the ball for Kansas. Gill’s defense gave up 678 yards against Baylor, the most allowed by the Jayhawks since 1988.
That’s an ominous sign heading into this game against a Kansas State team that will try to be physical with Kansas and run it behind RB Daniel Thomas. The converted quarterback, who has been the heart and soul of the Kansas State offense, ranks seventh in the nation with 138.2 rushing yards per game.
It’s no secret the Jayhawks will load up to stop Thomas and force the Wildcats passing game to beat them. It’s certainly the smart play considering K State ranks 107th in passing offense with a 156.4-yard average, last in the Big 12. Unless starting QB Carson Coffman can show some life in the first half this Thursday, expect Snyder to give backups Collin Klein and Sammuel Lamur a look as he did in the Nebraska game.
Kansas vs. Kansas State notes: Kansas has won three of the last four matchups against Kansas State but lost to the Wildcats 17-10 in 2009.
Kansas has won three straight at home against Kansas State.
Kansas has lost eight straight Big 12 games dating back to a 41-36 win against Iowa State Oct. 10, 2009.
Kansas has not won or lost consecutive games this season (lost last game at Baylor).
Kansas leads the all-time series against Kansas State 65-37-5.
This game will mark the 100th consecutive meeting between Kansas and Kansas State. That ranks as the fourth-longest uninterrupted series in the nation behind Kansas-Nebraska (104), Minnesota-Wisconsin (103) and Clemson-South Carolina (101).
Kansas is 11-8 over the past 20 seasons in the weeks following a bye. Of the post-bye games, four were against Kansas State with the Jayhawks going 3-1 in those contests.
Both teams are 2-2 against the spread this season.