Stats to watch for in Saturday's game
Two statistics that could be huge factors in Saturday's regular-season finale at West Virginia? Turnovers and red-zone efficiency.
West Virginia has been the Big East''s best team in turnover margin, forcing 10 more than they've lost -- no other team is better than plus-2, and the rest of the league is a combined minus-28. USF, by comparison is at minus-5. The Mountaineers have a league-low 13 turnovers while forcing a league-best 23 takeaways. Turnovers have helped the Bulls beat West Virginia in each of the past two seasons, with a plus-2 advantage in each win.
Red zone? USF has struggled inside the 20-yard line -- 10 times this season, they've left the red zone with zero points. The only team to do that more times is ... West Virginia, with 11. The Mountaineers have the Big East's least efficient red-zone offense, but they also have the toughest red-zone defense, holding opponents to 17 touchdowns in 38 trips inside the 20. (USF has also given up 17 red-zone TDs, but in 31 opportunities, showing they're a better defense in keeping teams from getting to the 20).
One more stat to watch? USF's pass rush. West Virginia has given up a league-low 12 sacks -- USF has allowed more than twice as many with 25 this season. Again, sacks were a key in the Bulls' two wins against West Virginia, with four in 2006 (including one leading to a key defensive touchdown) and three in last year's win.
NEW LOGO: The St. Petersburg Bowl has released a new logo -- sorry, no pelicans or tents this time -- to coincide with its new title sponsor, magicJack. Don't get me started about words with midCaps -- capital letters in the middle of a word. What's trickier still are trademarked names that start with lowercase letters, like adidas or eBay. Again, at this point, I'm just padding the paragraph to make sure it's as big as the logo.
MORE STATS: QB Matt Grothe's recent problems with interceptions -- nine in his past four games -- have overshadowed what has been accurate passing season for the junior. Grothe already has the two best seasons in USF history in terms of completion percentage and his challenging his own record with 63.5 percent completion rate this season. As a freshman, Grothe completed 63.7 percent, so that mark is well within range. West Virginia's Pat White is the only Big East passer with a better completion percentage -- he's at 63.9 percent.
Receiver Jessie Hester is within range of several USF season receiving records -- he has 52 catches, 10 behind Hugh Smith's 2002 school record; he has 524 receiving yards, 137 behind Smith's mark, also set in 2002. Senior Taurus Johnson, with five touchdown receptions, is within two of Elgin Hicks' record of seven, set in 2003.
100 OR BUST: Only twice in USF's history have the Bulls gone an entire season without a player rushing for 100 or more yards in a game -- that was in the pass-crazy 2001 and 2002 seasons. The season high so far for USF is Ben Williams' 79 rushing yards against Cincinnati, with two more chances to put someone over 100. Three running backs this season have rushed for more than 100 against West Virginia -- Colorado's Rodney Stewart (166), Syracuse's Curtis Brinkley (144) and Pitt's LeSean McCoy (183).