Fearless Picks - Rutgers

While our staffers have respect for Rutgers' improvement, does that mean any of them will pick the Scarlet Knights in the battle for first place in the conference?

Mountaineers Daily Top Stories

Andy Easton Last Week: W Season: 5-0
The Mountaineers travel to New Jersey looking for their second Big East victory of the season while the Scarlet Knights feel they have finally turned the corner after defeating the lowly Pitt Panthers 37-29 last week.

Rutgers hasn't defeated West Virginia since hockey became Canada's official winter sport, a trend that will continue on Saturday. Rich Rodriguez and Greg Schiano both took over their respective programs in 2001. In that span the Mountaineers have gone 32-22 (.593) while the Knights have continued their losing ways, going 15-35 (.300). Additionally, over the past 11 years, the Blue and Gold are 21-7 as a road favorite while the Scarlet and White are 10-39 as a home underdog.

Who will win? That's easy! Since the 17-12 defeat of the Mountaineers in 1994, the Knights have lost to WVU at home by an average score of 37.8 to 16.4.

Pick: WVU 37.8-16.4
Chris Richardson Last Week: W Season: 5-0
By the time this is published, most of us with BGN will be in the land of no left turns, and the self-proclaimed "Health Care City." Saturday morning we'll park the car in the media lot that doubles as a collection point for the excrement of 10 million geese, and head into Rutgers Stadium. After that, we'll watch one heck of a college football game.

Rutgers is vastly improved, and while its speed may not be as good as Virginia Tech's, it's certainly better than a majority of the teams West Virginia will face this season. The Mountaineer offense will have to perform as well as they have all season to beat the Scarlet Knights. The home team has some playmakers, and I cringe at the thought of Brian Leonard making a highlight by hurdling a Mountaineer defender, but at the same time the WVU defense is the best Rutgers will face all season. Couple that with a more balanced West Virginia offense and the Mountaineers win this "Maalox Masher."

Pick: WVU 24-20
Greg Hunter Last Week: W Season: 5-0
Rutgers has more offensive skill on hand than it's enjoyed in over a decade. The Knights are definitely improved from where they were a few years ago, and this doesn't figure to be easy for WVU, but the Mountaineers are still the better team.
Pick: WVU 28-21
Cam Huffman Last Week: W Season: 5-0
[Note: Cam couldn't figure out how to use his email last week, but he did make his selection known before the kickoff, so I'm being generous and allowing his pick to count. One more crack about the editor, however, and all bets are off.]

Traveling into "The Swamp" to take on the new-look Gators and Urban Meyer's powerful offense will certainly not be an easy task for Rich Rodriguez's Mountaineers. Oh, we are not playing Florida this week? I could have sworn from everything that I read that we were making the trip to Gainesville. I have taken a second look, though, and now I see that Piscataway is where we are headed and Rutgers is the team that is favored to beat the Mountaineers.

Let me just put it this way. Brian Leonard may be the best player we see all year, and the RU offense as a whole is not what we are used to seeing from a Rutgers team. But I have seen better defenses following West Virginia high school football this season than what the Mountaineers will see this Saturday in the Garden State.

The Scarlet Knights are the Marshall of 2005. They have beaten absolutely nobody — yes Pitt fans I said nobody — yet the national media has fallen in love with Greg Schiano's team. The next thing you know they will be playing all their games on Thursday nights and holding press conferences on the capitol steps. Rutgers, though, also has another thing in common with the Thundering Herd. Now they are facing a real team, and they will come crashing to the ground just like the Baby Buffaloes did against Virginia Tech in 2002 when Byron Leftwich and "The Greatest Team in Football History" were blown out 47-21.

This one may be a little closer, but the Knights will certainly awaken from their pleasant little dream. Rutgers is still Rutgers and West Virginia is still West Virginia.

Pick: WVU 30-21
Chuck McGill Last Week: W Season: 5-0
Last week I maintained prognosticating perfection by shedding my loyalities to the Mountaineers and picking the No. 3 Hokies. It was difficult to go with my head and not my heart, but the hardest part was losing a bet associated with the game (No, it didn't involve mayonnaise).

Rickie Holmes, a sixth grade student of mine at Washington Irving Middle School, boasted about his Virginia Tech Hokies all week leading up to the game. Feeling disrespected in my own classroom, I approached the young man - cloaked in a hideous brown and maroon VT hooded sweatshirt - and offered a simple wager. If West Virginia wins, he was to wear WVU attire to school on the following Monday. If Va. Tech left Morgantown with a victory, I would break down and shame myself by wearing a Hokies shirt.

Oops. I did, however, only wear a VT logo, as Steve & Barry's failed to carry any Hokies gear.

What does this have to do with Rutgers? Well, nothing, really. But on the heels of experiencing the most shameful day in my life, there's an uneasy feeling heading into Piscataway. Luckily there were no students sporting Scarlet Knights gear this week - because I would not have been quick to make another friendly wager.

This game is dangerous. Think Louisville at South Florida dangerous. Rutgers has enough talent on both sides of the ball to make WVU pay for its mistakes (or any ineptitude on offense). Expect Jason Gwaltney to have a "break-out" game, and Steve Slaton to be a perfect compliment. If the Mountaineers remain turnover-free and develop some sort of offensive rhythm, then perhaps the Mountaineers can garner its third road victory of the season.

But if the offense sputters, the defensive pressure is minimal and the Rutgers crowd gets going (Last week after beating Pitt, they were chanting to "Bring on the Mountaineers"), then it will be an interesting afternoon.

Get ready to do a number on those fingernails. This one's going the distance.

Pick: WVU 27-24
Jane Donovan Last Week: L Season: 4-1
Take back 2 plays and the Mountaineers are still undefeated, although last week's ACC officials doubtless would have found a way to get the W for VT, no matter how perfectly WVU might have played or how many holds and personal fouls Vicklette and his band of thugs might have deserved. Well, at least we don't have to deal with ACC officials this week. No sirree bob. Oh, wait. It's an in-conference game. That means Big East officials. Well, Rich, you and the boys better be perfect.

In fact, you really had better be perfect because this is not your father's Rutgers. It's not even your older brother's Rutgers. They beat Pitt last week. Ok, we know Pitt is finally getting what they deserve in Dave Wannstedt, but even so, this is a far better Rutgers team than we have seen in a very, very long time, and they're hungry. The Mountaineers can't afford to take their eyes off the ball for even a second. No looking over anyone's shoulder towards Louisville. No more pouting about VT (hey, if I can give it up, you can, too). Focus on the task at hand.

Pick: WVU 31-24
Bill Gleason Last Week: L Season:4-1
West Virginia limps in after getting their comeuppance against #3 Virginia Tech while Rutgers is still smoldering after their win over Dave Wantstache's Pitt Panthers.

Rutgers has certainly improved in the last four years from their program's rock bottom 795-0 shellacking in Morgantown. Ryan Hart is in his 12th year at the helm for the Scarlet Knights and Brian Leonard brings a strong rushing presence. Tres Mozes, one year from being eligible to draw social security, is along for his final year with Rutgers. This is a potent offense supported by an athletic defense and solid special teams.

West Virginia will counter with the diaper dandies getting their first start in the Mountaineer backfield. Steve Slaton rushed for 90 yards in the Virginia Tech game and wowed onlookers with his fierce running. He also showed his reputation for speed was not overblown. Jason Gwaltney continues to be the battering ram in short yardage situations and his role is quickly expanding. The WVU QB duo will again quietly lead the Mountaineers to victory with another stellar, yet underappreciated, performance.

Pick: WVU 31-17
Matt Keller Last Week: L Season: 3-2
I cannot forecast to you the actions of Rutgers. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. But perhaps there is a key, and that is the pass. West Virginia's defense must play tighter coverage and revamp its defensive look slightly, no easy task for a coach who can't change his mind and won't change a "stop the run" philosophy.

Look for WVU to blitz more, because it does not fear Ryan Hart's mobility like it did Marcus Vick's. That, coupled with less talented wideouts, will allow the Mountaineers to play to win, instead of not to lose, as it did at times last week. WVU has an opportunity to win a third consecutive Big East crown. It won't go undefeated, but all its preseason goals remain attainable. It's too bad some on the message boards see the difficulty in every opportunity instead of the opportunity in every difficulty.

If West Virginia gets a lead (and it says here it will), look for it to pound Owen Schmitt and Jason Gwaltney while utilizing Jason Colson and Steve Slaton as quick hitters. Rich Rodriguez will force his style down Greg Schiano's throat if possible, because Rodriguez regards the Rutgers coach as a man with all the virtues he dislikes, and none of the vices he admires.

And, hey, I've always felt that a coach is to be judged by the animosities he excites among his opponents. If there's a Big East mentor Rod likes to beat, it's Schiano. It is a mistake to look too far ahead. The chain of destiny can only be grasped one link at a time. Rutgers is next. For me, I am now an optimist - it does not seem to be much use being anything else.

Pick: WVU 31-24