BCI Fearless Predictions - West Virginia

The road to a possible National Championship will come through Cincinnati if West Virginia has the type of season many expect. Here are some "Fearless" predictions on a game that won't be played for three months from now.

Game 11: November 17-th vs. West Virginia at Nippert Stadium

 

The following numbers are all you need to understand where the Mountaineer program stands under Rich Rodriguez, 9,8,8,11, and 11. Those are the number of wins West Virginia has posted each of the past 5 years.  Coach Rod has taken his program to a legitimate national title contender.

 

What West Virginia has more that any other Big East team is star power. Steve Slaton at RB and QB Patrick White provide the Mountaineer attack with two of the most explosive performers in the country.

 

White best known for his running (1,219 yards and 18 TD's) also threw for 1,655 and 13 TD's a year ago. With each year White has improved his passing numbers, his 2007 pass efficiency was 159.73 that would have ranked him 12-th in the country but he was short by one attempt for the cutoff. Patrick White is a complete football player who still has upside.

 

Steve Slaton is back and healthy after having wrist surgery in the off season. In 2006 Slaton earned All-American honors by rushing for 1,744 yards and 16 TD's. Every time he touches the ball he averages 7.7 yards, he had 13 plays that went for 40+ yards last season. Steve Slaton will be one of the front runners for the Heisman Trophy in 07.

 

White and Slaton aren't the only West Virginia stars. Fullback Owen Schmitt can pull more than his own weight, he proved that in the Gator Bowl by rushing for 109 yards against Georgia Tech. At Wide Out Darius Reynaud has big play potential every time he touches the ball.

 

Defense the last few seasons has been considered the weak spot for West Virginia, part of the reason was each of the past 2 seasons only 5 starters returned. This year with 8 starters back expect to see the defense take a step forward led by the secondary with 7 players returning who have starting experience.

 

Why West Virginia will win this game?

 

Doug Goodwin: UC is loaded with very good football players; West Virginia is loaded with star quality football players. The last 2 season WVU has ran over UC, while this year will be much closer the result will be the same.

 

Dave Berk: As many know I've had the chance to watch West Virginia build since Rich Rodriguez took over the Mountaineers program in 2001.  While the Mountaineers had talent, Coach Rod brought a different approach to the team and used his skills to bring in the talent to run his style of spread offense.  Building one of the best rushing attacks in college football, Rodriguez will see his team with a giant bulls-eye on their back.

 

The Mountaineers will win this game with their offensive attack as they'll use speed and the zone blocking scheme to place White and Slaton in space to use their overall skills.  If the Bearcats take a series off, they'll be chasing the Mountaineers duo into the end zone.

 

What does UC have to do to win?  

 

Doug Goodwin: Last year West Virginia's offense began to drop off as Slaton's playing time became limited because of injury. Without Slaton the focus can turn to White. If UC is to win they must stop Steve Slaton, no more big plays from Slaton that have killed the Bearcats that last two meetings. On offense move the chains and convert in the red zone.

 

Dave Berk: Control the line on both sides of the football and the Bearcats will have a chance to win this game.  If the Bearcats defensive front can keep the Mountaineers offensive line from getting to second tier blocks, the running game of White and Slaton will be bottled up and the Bearcats linebackers will post some huge numbers. 

 

The reason I feel there is a chance to hold the WVU offense in check is the loss of two major parts from last season.  First is the leadership and play of Dan Mozes, second is the coaching of Rick Trickett who left for Florida State.  The West Virginia offensive line is not about stars, it's always been about doing it Trickett's way, with a new o-line coach in place we'll see if there is a difference.

 

On offense the Bearcats must limit 3-and out and control the clock and tempo of the game from kickoff.  West Virginia is still an offensive powerhouse who could be beat down by the time they arrive in the Queen City.

 

Doug's Prediction: WVU 42 – 31

 

Dave's Prediction: WVU 37 - 28

 

Bonus for Game 11:

 

Doug Goodwin: This will likely be the last chance for UC fans to see Steve Slaton as a college player; he is a Jr. but his all around ability is too much for the NFL to pass up. Don't be surprised if he is holding the Heisman by seasons end.

 

Dave Berk: This is the test the Bearcats are shooting for as they prepare for the season.  How you stack up with West Virginia and Louisville will say much for just where the program is headed under Brian Kelly.  This will be a great game to watch as West Virginia has a great fan base and will travel to Cincinnati for a weekend game in high numbers.  West Virginia has always recruited Ohio and done a good job of getting some good talent out of the Buckeye state.  This year is no different as LaSalle High School product Ryan Stancheck is a main player along the offensive line. 

 

As a side note, while Patrick White has gotten so much attention over the past few years he's not the only quarterback the Mountaineer faithful have a special place in their heart for.  Major Harris, Oliver Luck, Mark Bulger and Jeff Hostetler are just a few of the names WVU fans hold in a special place. 

 

Harris was way before his time and missed out on his stardom by going into the NFL Draft a year too soon.  Luck not only did it on the field he did it in the classroom and enjoyed a nice NFL career. Bulger, now a starter with the Rams has enjoyed success at the NFL level and many feel his best football is still ahead of him.

 

As for Jeff Hostetler, he went on to NFL stardom and is considered one of the programs all-time greats.  He also married the daughter of longtime Mountaineer head coach Don Nehlen and returned to Morgantown after his playing career to raise his family.  Now there is another Hostetler in the WVU program as Justin Hostetler, a redshirt freshman walk-on is looking to make a name for himself.

 

As much as Rich Rodriguez is loved in Morgantown, it was Don Nehlen who took the Mountaineers program to greatness when others felt it could never be considered a top program.  West Virginia and their fans are not new to winning football as Nehlen posted a 149-93-4 record after leaving his assistant role at Michigan.

 

Nehlen, who also mentored several college coaches who went on to become head coaches themselves took the Mountaineers to 13 bowl games and 17 winning seasons.  Overall the former Ohio native went 202-138-8 at Bowling Green and West Virginia and twice had the Mountaineers playing for a National Championship after going undefeated.

 

Nehlen's football roots are heavy in Ohio as the Canton native played quarterback at Bowling Green before starting his coaching career.  Starting at the high school ranks Nehlen coached at Mansfield High School and was head coach at Canton South and Canton McKinley High Schools.  He also spent time as an assistant coach at Cincinnati, Bowling Green and Michigan before starting his Hall of Fame career in Morgantown. 

 

Extra Side Note Dave Berk:  I've been lucky to have a brother with the skills needed to play football at the college level.  He was recruited by Don Nehlen to West Virginia University and Coach has a special place with our family.  While my brother never took a snap during a game with Coach Nehlen under the headset, he still considered him one of his guys and traveled to New York when my brother was a finalist for the Draddy Trophy in 2004. 

 

Coach Nehlen was proud of his players work in the classroom and my brother was the fourth player to earn a National Scholar-Athlete Award and the second to be a finalist for the Draddy Trophy he'd recruited to West Virginia.

 

My brother also played four years for Rich Rodriguez and was part of the run the Mountaineers have going as one of the country's top rushing programs.

 

I want to take this time to thank both coaches and the many people behind the scenes at WVU who helped my brother enjoy great success on and off the field.  Our family has a lot of great memories of our trips to Morgantown and being part of the WVU family during his five year stay.  For those WVU fans wanting to know how Jeff is doing, he and his wife Julie live in Huber Heights, Ohio where Jeff is a special education teacher and offensive line coach for the varsity.  This fall will see Jeff and Julie welcome twins into their family so it should be an interesting football season to say the least.


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