PICKIN' AND GRINNIN'
Last week's split picks led to a huge shuffle in the standings, with four panelists still standing unbeaten. Chris is atop the pack, and has the largest lead of the year, holding an 18-point advantage over Brian. Patrick missed the winner, but his total point differential of six was one of the best of the year.
It's hard to criticize anyone for picking Texas last week, so no barbs in that direction. Most everyone foresaw a close contest, with only the point totals eluding several of our pickers. Brian's 34-point differential was the largest of the week by far, but he did predict the correct winner.
|Chris Richardson||Last Week: W||Season: 5-0||Pt Diff: 151|
I was in Dallas last weekend recruiting and was adamant in the weeks leading up to the event that I possessed the inner strength to not make the four-hour drive to Austin after the event ended on Saturday afternoon. I stood by that for weeks...until Friday morning when my dad (a former prosecutor) and University of Charleston head coach Mark Downey (an accomplished recruiter/coach) teamed up to finally bring me to my senses. And man, am I glad they did. Saturday night in Austin was possibly THE WVU football highlight of my life (and second overall to seeing the men's basketball team in the Final Four).
Unfortunately, that memory will be stained if the Mountaineers can't avoid the trap this coming Saturday in Lubbock. Like I said in last week's pick, the more you win, the more important every game becomes. The target on your back gets a little bigger as your goals get a little closer to being realized. Some may say that's pressure; I say its opportunity. One of the most impressive things about Coach Holgorsen's tenure has been the ability of he and his staff to keep this team focused. Geno Smith is a big part of that too. Texas Tech is very good, but West Virginia is potentially great and (thus far) incredibly poised.
|Pick: West Virginia 49-38|
|Brian Jolliff||Last Week: W||Season: 5-0||Pt Diff: 169|
|Excitement abounds in Big 12 country, and it has effectively taken about 10 years off of my life span. While the Mountaineers enjoyed a very solid win over a very good team down in Austin, it seems they left some unfinished business in the Lone Star state and will be making the trip once more. This time the adversary is a Texas Tech team that is a bit hard to get a handle on. While I think they have a good defense, I don't think they have as good a defense as the numbers spell out and they have not faced an offense with as much potential as they will see this Saturday. WVU should put up good numbers again, but if the defense cannot corral the opposition, it could take another 2-3 more years from me.|
|Pick: West Virginia 45-35|
|Matt Keller||Last Week: W||Season: 5-0||Pt Diff: 181|
I'm not sure about trap game, but I do know this is a tough follow-up to Texas. Hangover, perhaps, is the better term. Tech plays a base 4-3, limits the run and hinders big play ability with two deep safeties. It won't pressure Geno Smith much, so it must tackle in the open field.
It didn't against Oklahoma, and the Sooners were disciplined enough to take incrimental yardage instead of forcing chunks. If WVU does the same, it'll be fine. If not, and it forces plays, Tech can contain and create turnovers. The Mountaineers' skill, in the end, is too much.
|Pick: West Virginia 42-34|
|Jane Donovan||Last Week: W||Season: 5-0||Pt Diff: 191|
What WVU needs to beat Texas Tech:
Geno - check
Tavon - check
Stedman - check
Another big game from Josh Francis on D, and a little help from his friends - check
National television - check
Ok, I'm ready ... and the Mountaineers are, too.
|Pick: West Virginia 45-35|
|Patrick Southern||Last Week: L||Season: 4-1||Pt Diff: 120|
One of the things West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said not long after he was hired was that defenses sometimes do things that are out-of-character in the hopes of stopping his offense. He pointed to examples including teams that always play odd fronts lining up in an even front, teams that tend to play base defense blitzing on essentially every down, and teams that tend to blitz sitting back in coverage.
It will be interesting to see if Texas Tech becomes the latest example. Holgorsen said Tuesday that film study indicated the Red Raiders blitz only eight percent of the time. I'm hardly a defensive coordinator, but that seems like a recipe for disaster against Geno Smith and company. The senior quarterback will pick you apart given too much time to operate, and Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey can work their way open against almost any coverage if Smith has time to wait with the ball in his hand.
In a battle of the nation's No. 1 pass defense against the No. 1 pass efficiency offense, I'll take Holgorsen and company.
|Pick: West Virginia 52-35|
|Andy Easton||Last Week: L||Season: 4-1||Pt Diff: 140|
The Mountaineers proved me wrong again last week when I predicted a loss to the Longhorns. I didn't think they would overcome a lack of solid defensive play in an hostile environment of over 100,000 people.
This week the Blue and Gold travel to Lubbock, TX, to take on a Red Raider team that owns wins over Northwestern State, Texas State, New Mexico and Iowa State. Nothing too impressive there, but something tells me that Texas Tech is going to give the road weary Mountaineers all they want.
|Pick: West Virginia 48-41|
|Bill Gleason||Last Week: L||Season: 4-1||Pt Diff: 143|
WVU flies to Lubbock this weekend in what is the classic example of a trap game. Having just played a very emotional game on the road against Texas, the Mountaineers have a showdown looming with #5 Kansas State next Saturday in prime time that could be the biggest home game in WVU history.
No chance they'd overlook Tech, right?
Not according to Dana Holgorsen. And for their sake, let's hope not. Texas Tech is not Temple. The Red Raiders are just as likely to score 50 on you as anyone. But they are a cut below the upper echelon of the Big 12, at least for the time being.
WVU should have success through the air, but so shall Tech. Tommy Tuberville would also like to run the ball, and as WVU proved last week they'll run you over just as effectively as throw it over you.
I actually believe that Dana is doing a very good job of keeping people on an even keel to battle the potential letdown.
|Pick: West Virginia 55-38|
|Greg Hunter||Last Week: L||Season: 4-1||Pt Diff: 144|
|A second straight road trip deep into the heart of Texas won't be easy for the Mountaineers. The bigger worry, though, is Texas Tech's defense, which is highly rated but built its impressive stats against suspect competition in the first four games. West Virginia's offense is much better than anything Tech has yet faced, though WVU figures to continue to score at a high rate.|
|Pick: West Virginia 45-36|
|Tony Dobies||Last Week: L||Season: 4-1||Pt Diff: 145|
|I feel like I write this just about every week - and will probably continue to preach for a few more months - but West Virginia is going to have too much firepower. The Texas Tech defense is statistically one of the best in the country, but it had trouble going against Oklahoma last weekend. I'd expect Geno Smith to have another Heisman-esque day, and the WVU offense to fare well. The defense will get enough stops to make the ride home a bit easier.|
|Pick: West Virginia 55-40|