PICKIN' AND GRINNIN'
While the race is close, the picks have been less than scintillating. WVU's Big East losses were totally unforeseen by the panel, so there's not much to smile about. Cam gets last week's honors for missing the total score by just eight points.
Brian's 34-point miss was the worst of the week, and dropped him down the standings a few notches. There's still time to rally, though it might be tough as he has proclaimed that he'll never pick against WVU.
|Chris Richardson||Last Week: L||Season: 7-2||Pt Diff: 162|
I really thought that the win over Rutgers was the type of rallying point a young team could build around and move forward. A week later, though, we were all brought back to reality as West Virginia reverted to the inconsistencies that has plagued it in losses to Syracuse and LSU.
Moving forward to Cincinnati, I can't come up with a good reason to pick the Mountaineers this week. The Bearcats have improved from week to week and are clearly the favorites in the Big East. They'll take another step towards the BCS on Saturday.
|Pick: Cincinnati 34-28|
|Tony Dobies||Last Week: L||Season: 7-2||Pt Diff: 163|
West Virginia was oddly positive this week despite being 6-3 and
facing the Big East Conference favorites. It's hard to tell if that's
a good thing, but it's easy to see the mood is much different around
the program at this point than it was a year ago.
A year ago, however, the Mountaineers finished the season on a tear. This game will definitely go a long way into deciding what the team's fate will be in Big East play. A win will keep WVU in it. A loss will end it any hopes of a Big East title.
For that reason, the Mountaineers will come out on fire and keep an energy and enthusiasm that it hasn't shown recently. I see WVU finding a way to pull the upset.
|Pick: West Virginia 41-38|
|Patrick Southern||Last Week: W||Season: 7-2||Pt Diff: 164|
I give up on trying to figure out this West Virginia team. It's just too much of a Jekyll-and-Hyde act to know what's coming any given week. If I had to define this year's Mountaineers in one word, "inconsistent" would be the clubhouse leader after the first nine games of the season. And when the head coach is talking about effort and emotion (or the lack thereof) from his players with three-fourths of the regular season behind him, perhaps you get a glimpse at the reasons for that inconsistency.
Cincinnati has an offense that may be able to score with the Mountaineers. Neither team has a defense that is especially impressive. Thus -- and this is hardly a case of me going out on a limb -- turnovers and field position could decide things. For reasons I'm not even sure I understand, I have a feeling those factors will trend in WVU's direction.
|Pick: West Virginia 38-31|
|Matt Keller||Last Week: L||Season: 7-2||Pt Diff: 193|
|This West Virginia team is as all over the place as any I have seen from an execution and mistake standpoint. It's field goals missed, blocked, returned. No running game, penalties, fumbles, interceptions. Bad blocking, bad tackling, bad pass coverage. Never all at once, but in just enough of a combination and frequency to essentially make the season a failure already. It continues this weekend.|
|Pick: Cincinnati 38-34|
|Andy Easton||Last Week: L||Season: 6-3||Pt Diff: 152|
In the last three games WVU has allowed over 39 points per game against three very average offensive teams. On the other hand the Bearcats have scored just over 39 points per game this season. This doesn't bode well for a Mountaineer team that can't seem to get excited to play the game of football.
At this point I just can't come up with one factor that would lead me to believe that the Mountaineers can win this game.
|Pick: Cincinnati 45-38|
|Cam Huffman||Last Week: L||Season: 6-3||Pt Diff: 158|
Call me the eternal optimist if you wish, but my gut is telling me to pick the Mountaineers. My record doesn't look to pretty anyway, so why not go with my heart?
Honestly, though, I think this game is WVU's to win. I'm still not convinced that Cincinnati is the best team in the Big East, but I am positive that a different level of focus would have resulted in a Mountaineer victory against Louisville. The defense isn't as bad as many believe. It caught a couple of bad breaks last week and didn't get any help from the other two phases -- turnovers on offense, 14-yard punts and blocked field goals for touchdowns are too much for any defense to overcome. The offense will be very good if it can hold onto the football and learn to avoid panic. After the message Dana Holgorsen sent to his team this week, I expect WVU to come ready to play, and if the emotion and intensity is equal, the Mountaineers come out on top in talent.
|Pick: West Virginia 33-30|
|Greg Hunter||Last Week: L||Season: 6-3||Pt Diff: 169|
|This figures to be a high-scoring affair. West Virginia's offense can certainly generate points (38.2 ppg), but so can Cincinnati's (39.1 ppg). The Bearcats' defense has definitely been better on paper than WVU's to this point, and that's a key. It's doubtful that anyone will completely shutdown Geno Smith and company, but if UC can slow them down just a little, that will allow Zach Collaros and the ‘Cats to pull ahead in this potential shootout.|
|Pick: Cincinnati 38-35|
|Brian Jolliff||Last Week: L||Season: 6-3||Pt Diff: 178|
Every week it is something else. Slow starts, special teams miscues, bad.. then good.. then bad punting, offensive line, no emotion, no effort. It's almost as if this year's team is trying to find ways to not win, and that certainly was the case last weekend against Louisville. It's frustrating as a fan and don't look to me for any answers. WVU has about as much chance to win these final three games as we do of losing here on out.
So, all I have left is hope. Hope that WVU can somehow pull out a win this weekend against its most challenging conference opponent and somehow gain some fire and confidence back into this flailing football team. If the Mountaineers can do that and come out of this weekend with a win, I think everyone all will have a better outlook down the final stretch of the season.
|Pick: West Virginia 35-31|
|Jane Donovan||Last Week: L||Season: 6-3||Pt Diff: 185|
|I don't know that I can remember a more perplexing Mountaineer team. Every time I think they're starting to gel, they don't. This season has been a long progression of two steps forward, one step back -- or sometimes even three steps back. However, the Big East football season has been playing out exactly the way it always does, like a circular firing squad. Suck it up, Mountaineers, and show us what you're made of.|
|Pick: West Virginia 21-20|
|Bill Gleason||Last Week: L||Season: 6-3||Pt Diff:220|
WVU has a problem. If it was easy to pinpoint, it probably wouldn't be a problem anymore. But somewhere there is a disconnect between knowldge and effort.
Dana Holgerson's offense had been nearly everything it was hoped to be, but key mistakes at inopportune times have placed a young defense in bad situations time and time again. Now the special teams, once more than solid in every phase except kick return defense, has turned out to be another unreliable unit in all phases. I don't think this defense, which couldn't stop three of the worst offenses in the nation, can stop Butch Jones' spread behind Zach Collaros and Isaiah Pead. And I think the UC defense is underrated and can slow WVU enough to frustrate the Mountaineers and test their heart.
Until this team toughens up, shows some heart and takes the fight to the opponent, I don't see it beating anyone.
|Pick: Cincinnati 52-42|