The race for the picking prize tightened at the top after last week's games, and this week's standings will depend solely on the all-important point differential, as everyone has the Mountaineers getting back to their winning ways at home.
PICKIN' AND GRINNIN'
Patrick, Keno, Chris and Matt all were within close range of the the LSU score, and the rest of the panel did pretty well too. The result? Six contestants are within 19 points of the lead after the first one-third of the regular season.
It's hard to fault either Jane or Brian for their selection of West Virginia a week ago, as both were just one drive (or one less bad play) away from taking spots at the top ot the leader board. Instead, they're at the bottom this week, but there's plenty of time to fight back.
|Patrick Southern||Last Week: W||Season: 4-0||Pt Diff: 36|
Even a cursory statistical analysis would indicate that UNLV is not a very good football team. The Rebels rank 87th in the country in scoring (21.8 points per game) and 100th in points against (32.6 points per game). Offensively, coach Bobby Hauck's squad ranks 93rd nationally in passing offense (178.8 yards per game) and 98th in rushing offense (107.6 yards per game). Of course, the most important statistic, won/loss record (where UNLV is 1-4) seems telling enough.
But the Rebels should be, if nothing else, battle-tested. They've faced three top 25 teams already this season -- among them the traditionally stout defense of Wisconsin and the explosive offense of Nevada. The environs of Mountaineer Field and the opposition from West Virginia should not intimidate this UNLV team.
It won't matter. WVU players and coaches have been chomping at the bit for a chance to get back on the football field since their 20-14 loss at LSU -- a game that, to a man, they seem to feel as though they gave away. The Mountaineers should roll in this one.
|Pick: West Virginia 34-13|
|Keenan Cummings||Last Week: W||Season: 4-0||Pt Diff: 40|
|Boy, what a long off-week, huh? After what was seemingly two months, the Mountaineers will take the field against the Vegas Running Rebels. I look for some quick scores to put the game out of reach early, and then let the second team players clean up the rest of the game.|
|Pick: West Virginia 42-17|
|Matt Keller||Last Week: W||Season: 4-0||Pt Diff: 48|
|West Virginia's defense should be able to take away what UNLV wants to do in running the football. The Mountaineer offense should be able to do as it needs with a week's rest against a beat-up and worn down foe: play power football, tune up the running game, get decent blocking, and make time for Geno Smith. If it doesn't happen this game, it might not this season. UNLV is under a first year staff with less talent, fewer playmakers and less depth. The match-ups are decent, West Virginia's at home. For the first time in awhile, look for a comfortable margin in a relatively easy game. This one goes to the Mountaineers.|
|Pick: West Virginia 38-16|
|Taylor Jones||Last Week: W||Season: 4-0||Pt Diff: 49|
|With the Mountaineers seemingly still upset about their close loss to LSU, I believe that they will come out of the gate ready to play on Saturday. While the team may have overlooked UNLV if they were coming off of a victory against the Tigers, I think the loss knocked them off of any potential high horses. I'm hoping that the game will allow the Mountaineers to ease injured players like Noel Devine, Tyler Urban, and Julian Miller back into the mix before Big East play begins. I expect to see a well played game by the Mountaineers as they look for redemption following the disappointing LSU loss.|
|Pick: West Virginia 31-10|
|Chris Richardson||Last Week: W||Season: 4-0||Pt Diff: 51|
Things I'd like to see on Saturday: 1) A healthy Noel Devine. 2) A rejuvenated Geno Smith. 3) A defensive or special teams touchdown.
I'll admit that it's unlikely we'll see item #1. If Devine plays, it doesn't sound like he'll be nearly a hundred percent. If that's the case, we should get a decent glimpse of some of the young runners behind the Mountaineer star. With an extra week of practice and a home crowd at their back, wouldn't it be nice to see what Trey Johnson or Shawne Alston can do? I think that item #2 is a safe bet. The third item has yet to happen this season, but can we all agree that it's only a matter of time?
Would love to see this become an annual intersectional rivalry...on the hoops slate.
|Pick: West Virginia 38-13|
|Cam Huffman||Last Week: W||Season: 4-0||Pt Diff: 55|
With Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon and Greg Anthony on the court and Jerry Tarkanian patrolling the sidelines, it isn't going to be easy for the Mountaineers to slow down the Runnin' Rebels on offense.
What? This is football. Come on. Everybody knows UNLV doesn't have a football team, and I don't care what Randall Cunningham says.
OK, so they do exist -- as so do the talking M&Ms -- but there is a reason the Runnin' has been taken out of their mascot's name. The Rebels run about as well as a drunk on an ice rink, making their offense one-dimensional. West Virginia's secondary has greatly improved, so putting up yardage and points is going to be nearly impossible for this UNLV team.
On the other side, WVU is tired of hearing about how its offense can't get anything going. Did anybody watch the Maryland game? There are still plenty of talented playmakers that will touch the ball for the Mountaineers, and that means this one will be over quickly.
This one won't get as ugly as it could -- with the Big East opener just five days away WVU will put the horses back in the barn as early as possible -- but the Mountaineers will have it in hand early.
|Pick: West Virginia 36-10|
|Greg Hunter||Last Week: W||Season: 4-0||Pt Diff: 61|
|With a week off to heal up after a physical game at LSU, West Virginia is hosting a UNLV squad which hasn't traveled this far east for a game in 17 years. More importantly, the Rebels just haven't shown a lot of talent. A new coaching staff is trying to turn things around in Vegas, but it's hard to envision that UNLV will find its stride at Mountaineer Field.|
|Pick: West Virginia 35-7|
|Bill Gleason||Last Week: W||Season: 4-0||Pt Diff: 63|
The Mountaineers return after a week off to lick their wounds and heal up after what should really not have been that tough a stretch of football with the lone exception being the LSU game in Baton Rouge.
This seems like the case study in trap games to me. Defensively, UNLV is statistically horrendous, having not even forced one punt against Nevada. Offensively it is statistically no better, ranking 93rd in the nation in passing yards and 98th in the land in rushing yards.
The issue is that the Mountaineers play conference sand burr USF this coming Thursday and the coaching staff is already fielding questions from the media about resting players for the Bulls in lieu of playing them against the Rebels.
This is a game that WVU should blow open early. The question will once again hinge on turnovers and line play. Struggling against this defensive line will do nothing to quell the fears of the Mountaineer Nation, and more sloppy turnovers will do nothing but keep this game much closer than it should be. This will be a win, and the game will never really be close, but it will never be as comfortable as people would like to see.
|Pick: West Virginia 34-13|
|Andy Easton||Last Week: W||Season: 3-1||Pt Diff: 44|
The Rebels have already played three ranked teams so I doubt if they will be intimidated coming into Milan Puskar Stadium. The problem is that WVU has more talent at most positions. UNLV has struggled in recent seasons, with the 2000 season being their last campaign with a winning record.
The Mountaineers should score early and often.
|Pick: West Virginia 38-14|
|Brian Jolliff||Last Week: L||Season: 3-1||Pt Diff: 57|
|If there is anything longer than a bye week after a tough loss, I don't know what it is. The waiting, the second guessing, the hindsight game planners, and the inevitable meltdowns over what was a very winnable game. But the game is behind us now and the last non-conference game looms this Saturday against UNLV. A UNLV club that, according to many, is not a very good football team sitting at 1-3 record... but there are those, including Coach Stewart, that are not in that camp. This should be a game that WVU wins easily, but with injuries to some starters and their level of participation in doubt, I have a feeling that this game will be a game controlled by the defense. With several question marks on UNLV's squad due to injuries, WVU's defense and play makers on offense, the good guys will prevail.|
|Pick: West Virginia 37-10|
|Jane Donovan||Last Week: L||Season: 3-1||Pt Diff: 63|
|The bye week couldn't have come at a better time -- at least as far as healing and rehab for injuries is concerned. This is one banged-up team but hopefully when they take the field against UNLV, the Mountaineers will be somewhat less covered in bumps and bruises. If WVU can get out ahead of the western invaders early on, then Noel Devine and Josh Jenkins can have a rest this weekend before the Big East schedule starts.|
|Pick: West Virginia 31-7|