We don't expect the fans to be particularly into the game on Saturday. (In fact, we'll be surprised if actual attendance tops 45,000.) With such a dull atmosphere, and with no one really recovered from last week's events, can we expect the players to be mentally sharp?
Probably not. Through no fault of their own, it will probably take them awhile to get back into the groove of the game. As a result, we won't be surprised to see mental mistakes and subpar execution from both teams, especially early on.
We often point toward the Maryland game as being a predictor of WVU success, but just as often a comparative score analysis of early WVU games against the MAC or other lower level opponents is just as revelaing.
Since 1983, when WVU opened with Ohio, a big score against lesser lights has paved the way for good to great WVU seasons.In 1983 and 1984, WVU outscored Ohio 93-3 and went to two bowl games, In 1988 and 1989, Bowling Green and Ball State fell by a combined 97-24, and two more bowl trips awaited.
However, seasons like 1990 (a 35-24 win over Kent State ) and 1992 (a 29-29 tie with Miami OH) saw WVU stay at home during bowl season.
The trend is evident - roll up big against MAC opposition, and a winning season and a bowl trip result. A close win, though, usually means a substandard campaign. WVU has one more chance to continue that routine on Saturday.
We noted that the one step punt form that Mark Fazzolari is using has affected the height of his punts, but they haven't affected his distance. In fact, Fazz ins second in the Big East with a 45.0 yards per boot average. How?
We've noticed several other games this year where punters are making getting the ball off priority one. As a result, kicks are often shorter and lower.
The flip side is that punt returners aren't able to get up to receive those punts - we've seen a lot of punts fly thirty yards and roll another twelve.
The end result - a gain for the punting team. Net punting is up, with fewer return yards. Of course, punt return teams will counter soon by putting a short return man up to field those balls, but for now the punters seem to have benefitted in reverse from all the pressure to avoid blocked kicks.
WVU hasn't benefitted quite as much - they gave up 66 return yards to Ohio and 57 to Boston College, but other than those two lapses they have gotten "the roll" more often than not. It's a trend to keep an eye on.
FOURTH DOWN FOLLIES:
When Mountaineer opponents have a fourth down, encourage them to go for it. Opponents are 0-3 against WVU on fourth down this year.