WVU football a hot ticket

There are places where college football is a serious subject. Tonight, it's the only thing that matters in West Virginia.

Most of the high school football games in West Virginia have been canceled because "they can't fill the stands, because the whole populace of West Virginia is going to be watching this game tonight," on television, Winston Shaffer says.

Shaffer, of Shreveport, La., is a WVU alum who is in Tampa this week for the Mountaineers' game against USF at Raymond James Stadium.

Shaffer predicts Nielsen ratings in West Virginia for tonight's televised game will show "98 percent watching this game. Same thing with Tampa."

Shaffer, who was enjoying a meal at Bennigan's on Dale Mabry with his friend, Doug Marquart, of Toledo, Ohio, typically goes to about one WVU game a year. After doing his homework on the Bulls, he concluded that if USF fans continue to show their support, the program will prosper, just as West Virginia's program has prospered over the years.

"Win or lose, West Virginia fans have always been there for West Virginia, even when they didn't have their great years," Shaffer said. "If South Florida continues to do the same thing, they are going to continue to have" success.

Shaffer is a true Mountaineers fan but he also roots for Big East teams when they aren't playing the Mountaineers.

"South Florida beating Auburn shows we're just as good, if not better, than the SEC (Southeastern Conference)," he said. "This to me is a Big East game to continue to show that we deserve a BCS (Bowl Championship Series) bowl game."

The game is also an opportunity for WVU to get revenge against the Bulls, who upset the Mountaineers last year, Shaffer said, adding that USF's future looks bright. After defeating Auburn, West Virginia and Louisville in recent seasons, he says, "longterm, maybe they'll be the dominant (Big East) team, like Miami was in the Big East, before they left."