Fearless Picks: WVU - Cincinnati

Just like the football team, our panel is hoping to rebound from a two-week slump.

PICKIN' AND GRINNIN' Bill, Cam and Matt had the closest misses of the last game, allowing them to move up a bit in the standings. Other than that, it was again a less than steallar week for the panel.


NOSE PICKING

There's been enough negative waves the past two weeks to keep even the most gloomy Eeyore satisfied, so we're not piling on. Suffice it to say that someone is going to win this contest with a worse record than the eventual Big East champ.


Patrick Southern Last Week: L Season: 6-2 Pt Diff: 101
While Bill Stewart was criticized for saying so, he was right in the aftermath of the UConn loss when he pointed out that his WVU team's offense had enjoyed a better day than some in recent weeks. It was the offense's best rushing performance of the season (254 yards). The squad moved the ball more consistently than it had done in some time, as all but four of the offense's 12 possessions in regulation resulted in drives of 29 yards or more.

Yes, there were issues with turnovers and penalties, once again. Self-inflicted wounds have cut the Mountaineers the deepest this season -- fumbles were the culprit in East Hartford, interceptions were largely to blame in a loss to Syracuse, and a combination of turnovers on offense and one critical special teams mistake cost West Virginia at LSU.

Given two weeks to hear about their supposedly lousy performance, the squad's offense will finally avoid the turnover bug and put on a solid showing. It will be needed, as Cincinnati's offense will test the WVU defenders in a way no team has through the first eight games of the season.

Pick: West Virginia 31-20
 
Keenan Cummings Last Week: L Season: 6-2 Pt Diff: 112
While I often hold my Mountaineers to high standards, rarely have I been as disappointed as I was with the loss at UConn. And after having a long break to stew things over, I'm interested in seeing how the team responds against a Cincy team that's had our number recently.

Will we see improvement? Will we see passion? Hopefully, or it could once again be a very long day.

While it's hard to pick WVU, I can't pick against it.

Pick: West Virginia 24-17
 
Matt Keller Last Week: L Season: 6-2 Pt Diff: 113
The hope here is that West Virginia has found, via a more prolonged review session and self-scout, something that it can consistently do well on offensive. A week off for mental and physical relaxation and refocus might aid the Mountaineers as well, and the opponent doesn't appear to have too many incredible weapons – at least on paper. The home venue, some simplified, tougher play and an ability to perhaps complete a game without giving up multiple turnovers should secure a win. Something tells me WVU scores 30 points this week. That would be enough.
Pick: West Virginia 30-21
 
Chris Richardson Last Week: L Season: 6-2 Pt Diff: 122
This might be the single most important game in the coaching career of Bill Stewart. The New Martinsville native is feeling heat from several angles after back-to-back Big East losses have left the Mountaineers all but out of the race for the conference crown. The natives are quite restless throughout the Mountain State, and a third consecutive loss in the league would turn up the heat another notch on Coach Stew.

Over in Cincinnati, former WVU assistant Butch Jones hasn't exactly encountered smooth sailing in year one at the helm of the Bearcats program. Still, UC is putting up respectable numbers on offense, and with quarterback Zach Collaros expected to start and play without limitations on Saturday, one could argue that the Bearcats are the best offense WVU has faced yet. If this game goes into the mid-20's in terms of scoring, I don't like the chances for the home team.

Pick: Cincinnati 23-17
 
Greg Hunter Last Week: L Season: 6-2 Pt Diff: 126
No matter how good WVU's defense is playing, Cincinnati's offense, if Zach Collaros is healthy, has too many weapons to shut down. That means West Virginia's offense is going to have to come alive. And even though the Bearcat defense has plenty of problems of its own, the Mountaineer offense that has been on the field the past couple of games simply hasn't generated enough points to defeat UC if this turns into a mini-shootout.
Pick: Cincinnati 24-21
 
Cam Huffman Last Week: L Season: 6-2 Pt Diff: 131
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. That's how the old saying goes, at least when George W. Bush doesn't butcher it like a hog at a tailgate. The Mountaineers fooled me for two straight weeks, and I'm not about to let it happen again. When picking high school football games, I often use the strategy that if a team makes me look bad two weeks in a row, I'm going against that squad until it proves me wrong. There's no reason to go against that tactic when forecasting the Mountaineers' fortunes.

Frankly, I couldn't care less where I end up in these standings. I just want to WVU to get back on the winning track and bring some excitement back to the Mountaineer fan base. I'm not one of those disgruntled fans hoping to see the Bill Stewart era come crashing to the ground. I want the Mountaineers, and Stewart, to win and win a lot. But until they do, I'm picking against them.

If the Mountaineers don't find their offense fast, they could be in big trouble. Cincinnati quarterback Zach Collaros is going to put some points on the board, even against what has been a fantastic WVU defense. It's going to take at least four scores for the Mountaineers to win, and it recent weeks they haven't shown that they are capable of finding the end zone that often.

This offense still has talent, and I haven't officially given up on the 2010 season. Win out, which isn't out of the realm of possibility, and I think WVU has a legitimate shot at ending the season as Big East champions. But I'm not holding my breath or giving the Mountaineers my vote until I see that there's a realistic shot of some offensive life.

Pick: Cincinnati 27-20
 
Taylor Jones Last Week: L Season: 6-2 Pt Diff: 139
Despite struggling this season, I think that the Bearcats will put up a good fight, as head coach Butch Jones faces off against his former team. Zach Collaros will no doubt come out big for Cincinnati, however, I think the Mountaineer defense will be able to contain him. While one would have thought that West Virginia's first conference loss to Syracuse would have been enough to whip them in shape, one can only hope that the second loss to Connecticut, followed by the bye week was enough to help them make a determined effort for the remainder of the season.
Pick: West Virginia 28-17
 
Bill Gleason Last Week: L Season: 6-2 Pt Diff: 142
Two weeks ago, I mistakenly sent in my pick for the WVU - Cincinnati game, as I had it stuck in my head that WVU was playing the Bearcats before the Huskies. The loss to UConn, and the week off, have done nothing to change my view. No...Doubt...Left.
Pick: Cincinnati 38-24
 
Andy Easton Last Week: L Season: 5-3 Pt Diff: 103
While Cincinnati works through a season of coaching transition, the Mountaineers hit the field Saturday with a huge chip on their shoulders. Having to listen to the negativity from their own fans for the last few weeks will have this team fired up.

The Gold and Blue roll.

Pick: West Virginia 31-10
 
Brian Jolliff Last Week: L Season: 5-3 Pt Diff: 128
Has the season gone bad? Yes. Is the season over? Hell no. Not even close. I admittedly have very real concerns about this team and the coaching staff, but those issues can wait until 2011. All I'm worried about is finishing the last four games strongly, and hopefully get a fifth game.

There are a lot of door steps where one could lay the blame for the lack of offense. Lack of leadership, toughness, and focus, along with poor oline play at times, a young quarterback, and turnovers have all played a role in WVU's troubles. But putting the first five issues aside, if WVU could hold onto the ball and not turn it over, it likely would be sitting at 8-0 right now. Plain and simple. If the defense plays up to par and the offense can hold onto the ball, WVU should come out ok this Saturday. Otherwise, I fear for my sanity in dealing with the "anti" crowd in another loss.

Pick: West Virginia 27-17
 
Jane Donovan Last Week: L Season: 5-3 Pt Diff: 129
It is going to be a very strange thing to see Jahmile Addae, Brandon Myles, and Milo Austin wearing strange colors and standing on the Visitors sideline. After all, Milo Austin was Homecoming King at WVU, and Jahmile Addae was Defensive King. I'm sure Brandon Myles was King of something, as well, perhaps the King of the long-legged galloping sprint. Your Old Mother WVU is very proud of you for making the leap from D-I player to D-I assistant coach in such a short time, and wishes you all the best in your career, except for this week. All sentiment will expire at approximately noon Saturday, so enjoy it while it lasts.

At this point, I don't know what to expect from the Mountaineers. That's not entirely true: I continue to expect great things from this defense. Otherwise, this team is a mystery. You can't play football without surprises, so surprise me, Blue and Gold. Hold up your end of the deal. Step it up. Dig deep. Be all that you can be. I'm sure there's another cliche or two that would be appropriate here, but the creeping brain spasm that has developed over the last two games has the better of me right now.

Pick: West Virginia 24-17

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