TAMPA, Fla. - West Virginia plays its final and most significant game of the season tonight against a South Florida team playing its final and most significant game.
For the No. 22 Mountaineers (8-3, 4-2 Big East), a win clinches a share of the Big East championship and keeps alive their hopes of earning a BCS bowl berth. Cincinnati would also need to win at home against Connecticut Saturday in order for the second of those goals to be met.
South Florida (5-6, 1-5), meanwhile, needs a win to become bowl eligible.
The winner, though, could be determined greatly by which team overcomes being hamstrung on offense.
South Florida's issue is pretty straight forward: Junior quarterback B.J. Daniels has missed the last game and a half with a strained shoulder, and his availability is not likely to be known until the teams kick off shortly after 8 p.m. at Raymond James Stadium. Without him, the Bulls are quite simply not as dangerous on offense.
West Virginia's offensive dilemma? Well that's a bit more complex, but no less daunting.
After - and despite - WVU's 21-20 win over Pitt last Friday night, coach Dana Holgorsen lamented that his team was forced to throw out perhaps 60 percent of its offensive plays, namely the dropback passes that define the scheme. The reason was that the offensive line couldn't block Pitt's pass rush. The words Holgorsen used to describe the concession were "incredibly discouraging.''
Holgorsen's solution against Pitt was to run the ball and make more use of screens and short, quick passes - plays which don't force the offensive line to pass protect as long. He also benched the right side of the line, replacing Tyler Rader and Pat Eger with Quinton Spain and Curtis Feigt, respectively.
So here's the problem against South Florida tonight: The Bulls are even better than Pitt at rushing the passer. They rank second in the country in sacks.