The South Florida Bulls (5-6, 1-5 Big East) host the No. 22 West Virginia Mountaineers (8-3, 4-2) on Thursday night, needing a victory in order to become bowl eligible. USF has appeared in a bowl game in each of the last six seasons, winning four of them, so faltering against the Mountaineers would end a streak of remarkable success for the program.
Last Friday the Bulls fell to the Louisville Cardinals, 34-24, squandering what had been a 17-3 second-quarter lead with poor defense and an inability to execute on offense. Starting in place of injured quarterback B.J. Daniels, sophomore Bobby Eveld completed 20 of 35 passes for 210 yards, a touchdown, and an interception. His counterpart, Teddy Bridgewater, threw for 241 yards and a career-best three touchdowns to lift the Cardinals past the Bulls, who committed three turnovers on the day.
The Mountaineers, meanwhile, returned to the AP Top 25 with their come-from-behind victory against the Pittsburgh Panthers in the Backyard Brawl. After falling behind 14-0 in the first quarter, the Mountaineers kept Pittsburgh out of the end zone the rest of the way, limiting it to two field goals. A pair of Shawne Alston rushing touchdowns in the third and fourth quarters helped the hosts to victory, and West Virginia collected four of their ten sacks of Panthers quarterback Tino Sunseri on Pittsburgh's final drive.
The head-to-head series between the teams is knotted at three games apiece. Last year in Morgantown, West Virginia won 20-6 behind Geno Smith's strong performance. Smith tossed two touchdowns and completed 77.1 percent of his passes, while Daniels threw for only 119 yards and three interceptions in that game. The team lists Daniels as questionable for Thursday's contest with an AC joint bruise in his throwing shoulder.
While the Bulls look to become bowl eligible, West Virginia has a much loftier goal. With a win over USF and a Cincinnati victory against Connecticut on Saturday, it would force a three-way tie atop the Big East standings at 5-2 between themselves, Cincinnati, and Louisville. Each went 1-1 against the others, which means the tie would be broken based on BCS standings. The Mountaineers hold a comfortable lead in that category, meaning they would likely earn a trip to the Orange Bowl if this scenario unfolds.