Impact game: West Virginia vs. USF

For my other choice as the biggest impact game in the Big East in 2011, I am going with the Mountaineers again:

West Virginia at USF, Dec. 1

It stands to reason that the regular-season finale was moved to a Thursday night because there is the potential for this game to decide the league title. And what better way to showcase that than with a Thursday night national-spotlight game to yourself? West Virginia has been declared a preseason favorite; USF has been declared a preseason dark horse. Both teams should be in contention for the league championship until the end of the year.

The games between these two teams are generally knock-down, drag-out fights, and USF has been known to pull an upset or two. In 2006, West Virginia went into the game as a 21-point favorite, ranked No. 7 and the front-runner to get into a BCS game. But the Bulls stopped Pat White and Steve Slaton and won 24-19 in Morgantown in the second-to-last game of the regular season for West Virginia.

The following year, the Bulls pulled the upset again, beating the then-No. 5 Mountaineers 21-13 after White got banged up and was unable to play the entire game. West Virginia has won only once in Tampa, in the first meeting in the series back in 2005.

The Mountaineers will have only six days between games this time around, after playing in the Backyard Brawl the previous week. Closing the season with these two games back to back certainly is a doozy. But by this point in time, we should know whether the high-powered attack Dana Holgorsen has promised to bring has delivered. We will see whether B.J. Daniels really has improved the way his coaches expect. We will see how the West Virginia defense has taken shape after losing seven starters. We will see how the USF receivers and running backs have fared after big question marks in the preseason.

And, most importantly, we will see whether these two teams really are contenders.