This game goes down on the ESPN network and it features West Virginia University Mountaineers taking on North Carolina State University Wolfpack in the 21st annual Champs Sports Bowl features at Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium.
West Virginia, 9-3, 5-2 Big East, earned a share of the Big East title this season, but lost out on the tie-breaker with UConn. West Virginia head coach Bill Stewart Mountaineers won its last four games of the regular season has its offense came alive down the stretch, scoring 35 or more points in three of its final four games and cracking 500 total yards in a finale win over Rutgers. Turnovers however, have been an issue for the Mountaineers, as they have committed 23, including 16 lost fumbles.
Running the offense for the Mountaineers is sophomore Geno Smith, as he was in his first season as a starter, completed 65.8 percent of his pass attempts with 23 touchdowns and just 6 interceptions. Jock Sanders served as Smith’s safety outlet with a team-high 64 catches, while Tavon Austin provided a deep threat with 757 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns. The Mountaineers also have a threat in the backfield with Noel Devine, though his season was slowed by ankle and foot issues. The speedy back totaled just 884 yards after entering the season as a possible Heisman Trophy candidate.
Defensively the Mountaineers have been outstanding for the most part this season and they rank second in both run with 85.1 ypg and scoring defense at 12 ppg. Bruce Irvin leads the team with 12 sacks while Julian Miller adds 8 to go with a 13 tackles for loss. In the secondary Keith Tandy has a team high 6 interceptions.
NC State, 8-4, 5-3 ACC, suffered a 38-31 loss to Maryland in its regular-season finale that cost the team the Atlantic Division title and a spot in the ACC Championship game. Head coach Tom O’Brien’s offense revolves around Russell Wilson, who is one of the most talented quarterbacks around with a strong arm and mobility. Wilson has thrown for 3,288 yards and 26 touchdowns while adding 394 more yards and 9 touchdowns on the ground. Wilson does lack accuracy as he has only completing 58.1 percent of his pass attempts with 14 interceptions.
Owen Spencer is Wilson’s favorite target in the passing game, as he leads the roster with 57 catches and 868 receiving yards. Jarvin Williams is another option and he ranks second behind 46 receptions for 636 yards. The ground game is lead by Mustafa Greene as he has amassed only 584 yards on the season.
Defensively the Wolfpack averages nearly 8 tackles for a loss per game to limit opponents to 115 yards on the ground. Nate Irving has been outstanding for NC State as he has 20.5 tackles for loss on the season and leads the team with 6 sacks.
The Mountaineers own a 13-16 all-time record in bowl games and are coming off a loss to Florida State in the Gator Bowl last season. NC State owns a 12-11-1 record in bowl games with their last postseason appearance came in 2008 and was loss to Rutgers. The Mountaineers and Wolfpack have met previously nine times including twice in the postseason where the Mountaineers holds a 5-4 edge in the series.
PICK: West Virginia University Mountaineers
This game goes down on the ESPN2 network and it features West Virginia University Mountaineers taking on the University of Connecticut Huskies at Rentschler Field.
Head coach Bill Stewart will travel to Connecticut at 5-2 overall and 1-1 in the Big East after losing at home last weekend to Syracuse 19-14. The defeat snapped a 12 game home winning streak by West Virginia and knocked them from the national rankings. The Mountaineers success now and in the future rest on sophomore quarterback Gino Smith, 1536 yards 15 touchdowns 5 INTs, who is completing 65.9 percent of his throws. Smith still has the luxury of having senior running back Noel Devine, 626 yards 4 touchdowns, but he hasn’t been nearly as explosive as his past seasons.
The Mountaineers offense calls for a lot of quick slant routes for its receivers to run and that benefits sophomore Tavon Austin, 445 yards 3 touchdowns, and senior Jock Sanders, 370 yards 2 touchdowns, as they both have over 35 receptions on the year.
Defensively the Mountaineers have surrendered 7 passing touchdowns while coming up with 8 interceptions to rank 5th in the nation at being scored upon with just 13 points per game by its opponents. Junior defensive back Keith Tandy has recorded half of the team’s interceptions.
Head coach Randy Edsall has his Huskies ready for tonight’s matchup with a 3-4 overall record and 0-2 in conference play. The Huskies have a two game losing streak on their hands as they get ready for tonight, the latest being to Louisville in which they where shutout 26-0. Prior to last weekend’s game, junior Cody Endres, 471 yards 5 touchdowns, was suspended for the season following violations of school policies. Redshirt freshman Mike Box, 65 yards 1 INT, made his first career start under center but struggled and eventually was replaced by senior Zach Frazer, 605 yards 2 touchdowns 1 INT, who had begun the season as the starter.
Whomever does get the call this weekend the Huskies should get use to handing the ball off to junior Jordan Todman, 841 yards 8 touchdowns, as he is one of the top running backs around.
The UConn defense has trouble stopping the run but it does have senior linebacker Lawrence Wilson and his 78 tackles on the season to be on the lookout for.
West Virginia has won all previous six meetings between the two schools.
PICK: West Virginia University Mountaineers
This game goes down on the ESPN network and it features the University of South Florida Bulls taking on West Virginia University Mountaineers in Morgantown.
Head coach Skip Holtz, who is in his first year of coaching the Bulls after guiding East Carolina to consecutive Conference USA titles, brings his team into this Big East matchup 3-2 overall and 0-1 in conference. The Bulls are coming off a shocking loss at home to Syracuse 13-9, who only won won game last year, but have beaten West Virginia in three of their past four games and that includes last year 30-19 at home.
The offense is lead by sophomore quarterback B.J. Daniels, 684 yards 4 touchdowns 7 INTs, has struggled so far completing 52.6 percent of his throws. Besides Daniels high number of interceptions for so early in the season also comes with an alarming number of 10 sacks he has given up. Daniels will take off with the ball though at times if he can’t find either senior wide receiver Dontavia Bogan, 219 yards 2 touchdowns, or sophomore Evan Landi, 215 yards, open. Daniels is third on the team in rushing at 186 yards and 2 touchdowns.
The Bulls prefer to keep the ball on the ground and do so by giving the ball to senior Moise Plancher, 289 yards 4 touchdowns, and sophomore Demetris Murray, 253 yards one touchdown. The Bulls are averaging 176.2 yards per game on the ground and 4.6 yards per carry.
The Bulls have been great on defense this season and have only allowed over 14 points just one time which came in their 38-14 loss at Florida. Senior defensive end Craig Marshall, 6 tackles for loss 4 sacks, is one to watch on this side of the ball.
Head coach Bill Stewart has his Mountaineers ready to play in their first Big East conference game and 4-1 overall. The Mountaineers lost to LSU in Baton Rouge 20-14 but rebounded with a 49-10 victory over UNLV this past weekend.
The offense is a two headed monster of sophomore quarterback Geno Smith, 1139 yards 12 touchdowns 2 INTs, who has completed 66.4 percent of his throws and one of the top backs in the nation with senior running back Noel Devine, 475 yards 4 touchdowns, who is averiaging 5.3 ypc.
When Smith looks down field he usually looks in the direction of fellow sophomore wide receiver Tavon Austin, 366 yards 2 touchdowns. Senior wide receiver Jock Sanders, 286 yards 2 touchdowns, is another of his favorite targets and has looked for him in crucial situations this season. Smith benefited by having junior wide receiver Brad Starks,100 yards 3 touchdowns, back in the lineup last week after missing the first four games with a groin injury
The Mountaineers have really thrived on the defensive side of the ball this season, holding opponents to only 254.6 ypg and a mere 13 ppg, which is 7th best in the nation. The Mountaineers are only giving up 86.8 rushing ypg and just one rushing touchdown this season.
PICK: University of South Florida Bulls
This game goes down on the ESPN2 network and it features the West Virginia University Mountaineers taking on Louisiana State University Tigers in Baton Rouge.
West Virginia head coach Bill Stewart brings his Mountaineers into SEC territory 3-0 after defeating Maryland 31-17. West Virginia is lead by sophomore quarterback Geno Smith, 800 yards 7 touchdowns one interception, who has completed 70.3 percent of his throws. At Smith’s disposal are several top wide receivers like sophomore Tavon Austin, 281 yards 2 touchdowns, and senior Jock Sanders, 214 yards one touchdown.
Besides the talented wide receiving core Smith has, he is helped by having senior Noel Devine, 354 yards 2 touchdowns, the nation’s active rushing leader with 3,735 yards. Devine has gone over the century mark in each game this season and is averaging 118 rushing ypg.
The Mountaineer defense dominates against the run and is holding opponents to just 62.8 ypg. Furthermore the unit has yet to surrender a rushing touchdown this season. The Mountaineer defense has also added 8 sacks with 3 coming from junior defensive end Bruce Irvin.
For head coach Les Miles and the Tigers they enter tonight’s game 3-0 and 2-0 in the SEC. The Tigers also hold the distinction that no team outside the SEC has won on its home field since University of Alabama at Birmingham did so on Sept. 23, 2000, a streak of 28. The Tigers offense shoulders itself on junior quarterback Jordan Jefferson, 344 yards 2 touchdowns 2 INTs, who has failed to throw for 100 yards in back-to-back games. Jefferson has only completed 57.9 percent of his throws. The Tigers have a good rushing attack led by junior Stevan Ridley, 318 yards 2 touchdowns, and sophomore Russell Shepard, 128 yards 2 touchdowns.
On the defensive side of the ball the Tigers are lead by junior defensive back Patrick Peterson and sophomore Morris Claiborne, who both have 2 interceptions each. The run defense for Miles has been it’s strength allowing just 80.3 ypg on the ground and just 2.2 yards carry. Senior linebacker Kelvin Sheppard leads the defense with 27 tackles while senior defensive tackle Drake Nevis has accounted for 3.5 of the team’s 11 sacks.
This game represents the first-ever meeting between the two schools.
PICK: West Virginia University Mountaineers