Sat 10/30 Noon
AP Rank: 15
Last Game: SU
Returning Starters: 16
AP Rank: NR
Last Game: Pitt
Returning Starters: 16
Last Meeting: 2003
Not only does Rutgers have 27 sacks so far on the season, they are spreading the carnage among all their opponents. The Scarlet Knights have recorded at least two sacks in each of their last nine games. That speaks to the consistency of the pressure being applied by the very good front line. Fourteen different Rutgers players have gotten onto the sack board this year.
That last item is what makes the Knights really tough. Although defensive end Ryan Neill leads Rutgers with six sacks, teams can't give all their attention to him, because pressure can, and usually is, generated by any member of the Knights' front four. The ability of WVU's offensive line to read Rutgers' stunts and twists and pick up their blocking assignments will be a key factor in the outcome of the game.
There's no other description for the media member who continues to give Boston College (5-2) his or her first place vote in the Lambert Trophy balloting. Despite two losses, this dim bulb is still giving the Eagles the nod over one-loss teams such as West Virginia and Navy, as well as over a two-loss Pitt team that defeated BC just a couple of weeks ago.
Five media members vote in the poll, and the other four all tabbed West Virginia as the number one team. Unfortunately, the ECAC, which conducts the polling, won't reveal the names of the pollsters. My guess is it's one of the same morons that is voting Florida State over Wisconsin in the AP poll.
SPEAKING OF WHICH
I am really tired of media members whining about the results of the BCS rankings when said rankings don't match their sacrosanct AP poll. Who gave the media the corner on wisdom? These are the same guys that take Rich Rodriguez and WVU to task for the misdeeds of a player who has been out of school for 15 years, or ask scintillating questions like "Talk about the game, coach."
These writers complained last week about an undefeated Miami team being ranked above an undefeated Oklahoma team in the BCS rankings. My question is, why? Who says Miami or Auburn aren't better than Miami or USC? Auburn, after all plays in the SEC, which is held up as the be all and end all of collegiate football on the planet. So why don't these supposedly savvy media members recognize that accomplishment with a #1, or at least, a #2 vote?
Even worse, these same guys, who routinely criticize the BCS poohbahs as being stuck in the mud, and hopelessly out of date, continue to vote a one-loss Florida State team ahead of an undefeated Wisconsin team in the polls. No matter how you slice it, the writers who vote in the poll have just as many inconsistencies as the computer rankings they so routinely complain about. Maybe it's because the PCs cranking out those rankings can't reply to the criticism.
Although I don't favor gambling on college sports, an interesting proposition on this week's game would be the over/under on the number of passes thrown by Rutgers QB Ryan Hart. If the Mountaineers run defense is up to its previous performances, will the Scarlet Knights, buoyed by their film analysis of the WVU-Syracuse game, fill the New Jersey air with passes? I'd put the over/under at 51.
Are we in one of the greatest stretches for record-breaking performances in Mountaineer football history? I believe so.
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Before that mark is set, Chris Henry is likely to bag one, if not two, marks. Henry needs just two touchdown receptions to pass Reggie Rembert's record total of 11 for a single season, and he trails Cedric Thomas' career record of 23 by just four.
While WVU has played just one true freshman this year (Pernell Williams), Rutgers has dipped more deeply into its youngest class. The Scarlet Knights have played six true freshmen this year. In addition, the Scarlet Knights have played eight other newcomers during the first seven games of the season.
That's probably not the first choice of head coach Greg Schiano, but it does show that he's not afraid to play the individuals that he believes gives his team the best chance to win. And by this point in the season, many of those newcomers aren't performing like first year players any longer.
This week's reality check focuses on red zone efficiency. While official stats measure the percentage of times a team scores in the red zone, the meaningful number is how many touchdowns a team scores when it gets the ball inside the opponent's 20-yard line. Fortunately for WVU, they lead the league no matter which way the numbers are calculated.
WVU scores 92% of the time the get the ball into the red zone. The Mountaineers are 23-25 in those situations, but what's even more impressive is the fact that 19 of those scores are touchdowns. WVU's TD-scoring percentage is 76% - easily tops in the league. Rutgers, which owns a 78.1% scoring percentage (25-32), has only a 53.1% TD-scoring rate.
There's not much more frustrating to coaches than getting the ball in close and seeing points slip away, and the four-point difference between a touchdown and a field goal can easily be the difference in a close game. WVU's offensive proficiency, as well as a stalwart defense that has stalled many drives close to the goal line, has given the Mountaineers a decided advantage in this area. In 23 opponent chances, the Mountaineers have given up only six touchdowns, with just one of those coming on the ground.
The WVU game will be the third consecutive appearance for Rutgers on the Big East game of the week. No slam intended here, but that's one reason the Big East TV contract is stuck in arbitration. I realize that some weeks there's not much to choose from, but three in a row? Of course, this situation should improve dramatically next year with three new teams joining the league.
WORDS OF CAUTION
It's all to easy too compare scores, opponents and results in trying to predict the outcome of games, but I just don't think there's much to be gained from doing so. Many Mountaineer fans who watched last week's Pitt-Rutgers contest are predicting an easy win for WVU based on the blowout inflicted by the Panthers.
A look past the final score, however, can often reveal information that doesn't support that "easy" conclusion. First, Rutgers handed the ball to Pitt five times via turnovers. Second, Pitt threw 43 passes against the ragged Scarlet Knight passing defense for 318 yards. Third, Rutgers is much better equipped to stop the run than the pass. Fourth…well, I'll let you draw your own conclusions. Keep in mind, however, that sometimes Team A, even though a "worse" team overall, might match up with Team C better than it does with Team B.