Fearless Picks - Louisville

The logjam at the top of the picks standings will clear a bit after the Louisville game

Andy Easton Last Week: W Season: 6-0
The Louisville Cardinals visit Morgantown for the first time since 1993 looking to stake their claim as the Big East's dominant team. The Cardinals will bring a prolific offense to Milan Puskar Stadium, one that has whipped Oregon State, Florida Atlantic and North Carolina by a combined score of 193 - 51 (avg. of 61.33 to 17).

A quick look at the statistics reveal that the Mountaineer defense will have its hands full Saturday afternoon. The Cardinal offense yields 317 passing yards per game, 47.6 points, and an impressive seven points every 9.7 plays. Not bad for a team that runs the ball 55.5% of the time. Louisville has also been a solid road favorite over the last 11 years (26-9-0).

As impressive as those numbers appear, a healthy WVU team would drop these high flying birds to 0-2 in the Big East. Unfortunately, this is a banged up WVU team. With Ernest Hunter out, Jason Gwaltney on crutches, Anthony Mims a question mark and Jahmile Addae hurting, among others, it could be a long evening for Blue and Gold defenders. There are just too many injuries to handle these Cardinals.

Pick: Louisville 34-21
Chris Richardson Last Week: W Season: 6-0
The last time these two teams played, I was 10 years old and rubbing elbows with Gerry Faust at a family wedding in Akron. Needless to say, I've come a long way since then. On with the pick.

Whatever it takes. That's what this week is all about. The love-fest better be over between the WVU fans and those of Louisville. I respect the Cardinal program, and I admire the passion of their fans. But the bottom line is this: The Big East title comes through Morgantown. It's like the scene in "Rudy" when Dan Devine says "Nobody, and I mean nobody, comes into our house and pushes us around." This is what it's all about. A win Saturday, and the Mountaineers should FINALLY be recognized for what they are: the team to beat in the Big East.

It won't come easy though. The Cardinal offense is more in tune than "The Pride of West Virginia", and to win this game, the WVU defense must create some turnovers. Last week against Rutgers, they did that. They have improved every week in some way, shape, or form, and I have no reason to believe that they won't this week. I'd love to be a fly on the wall of the WVU locker room when Coach Rod goes into his "When you play the Mountaineers..." routine. The stadium will be rockin' and the Mountaineers will bring home a hard fought victory.

Pick: West Virginia 30-28
Greg Hunter Last Week: W Season: 6-0
Louisville has been an offensive juggernaut (40+ points in 13 of its last 18 games), but USF showed the key to beating the Cards – run the ball effectively, dictate tempo and play from in front. If USF can do that, so can WVU. The Mountaineers must play well, and they can't let this turn into an offensive shootout, but with the home field advantage on its side, West Virginia has a very good chance to win.
Pick: West Virginia 28-27
Cam Huffman Last Week: W Season: 6-0
"I know we are going to lose, but that is no reason not to send me your picks."

This was the message sent by Kevin Kinder to the Blue and Gold News staff. Now you know why this site's publisher refuses to pick the games. He doesn't want to take the ridicule for his negativity. [Editor's Note: My message was the only way I could get Cam, who is chronically late in every aspect of his existence, to send me his pick for the week. This one arrived 49 hours past the deadline. My actual pick is never revealed until we are on the field just prior to kickoff.]

I, on the other hand, feel that this will be the game where the Fearless Picks title is decided. I expect many of my colleagues to pick the favored Cardinals, but I am going to put myself in the driver's seat for the title by going with the Mountaineers. My pick is not out of a lack of respect for Louisville. I think Bobby Petrino's club is very strong, and it is deserving of all the hype it has received so far. But I also think WVU is a pretty good team.

Louisville will get its yards through the air, and a few on the ground, but it will be its all-out attack through the skies that comes back to haunt it as well. The teams that have been successful against West Virginia up top — Virginia Tech and even Rutgers to some extent — have done it with a patient passing attack that takes what the defense allows, not with a bunch of big plays.

Louisville at times has a tendency to get greedy, and I think some gambling in the passing game will lead to at least one turnover for the WVU secondary. The Mountaineers, on the other hand, will stay patient, eat up the clock and wear down the Cardinals' big defensive front by pounding away at it all evening long. Look for a big day from Steve Slaton and Owen Schmitt and probably the best game of the year from Adam Bednarik. Saturday will be a magical night in Morgantown, so tune up your singing voices.

Pick: West Virginia 30-27
Chuck McGill Last Week: W Season: 6-0
Are you looking for a game that is finally worth the price of admission? Look no further. Everyone is familiar with Louisville's juggernaut of an offense, which is piling up points in Rick Pitino-like fashion. Everyone is also familiar with the Mountaineers, whose flashes of brilliance on a youthful offense have been overshadowed by even more flashes of ineffectiveness and dullness.

That said, West Virginia is still 5-1. If Rich Rodriguez actually does have a rhythmic, balanced offense ready to dust off, then a 5-1 team that is inconsistent on offense could become mighty dangerous. The bad news is, Louisville's offense has already hit its stride.

Want yards? A grand of total offense is likely. Points? WVU's defense is good, but it isn't going to stop Louisville from scoring its fair share. Exciting plays? The momentum in this game will swing like a pendulum, as the Big East stalwarts trade blows down to the wire.

A Mountaineer win? You are going to have to look elsewhere this week, as West Virginia seems destined to share the Big East title every season.

Pick: Louisville 37-33
Jane Donovan Last Week: W Season: 5-1
Rain doesn't usually improve my experience of a WVU game, but after Thunder and Lightning spent last Saturday afternoon singing in the rain, and the firm of Addae, Lorello and McLee did such a fine job of raining on Rutgers' parade, maybe it's ok that the forecast calls for droplets again this Saturday. When it starts raining men, just as long as it's Mountaineer men crossing the goal line for big TDs, rain might not be such a bad thing.

Get out your ponchos, preferably bright yellow, and practice a chorus of "in the cold Kentucky rain," (as in "you are so out in the cold, Louisville, Kentucky, when you try to throw in the rain"). We'll channel The King's fury to leave pretender Elvis and his band of red-feathered friends all shook up. Oh, wait. I changed pop culture references in mid-prediction. Never mind.

Unfortunately, Thunder won't be available on Saturday, but Lightning will run up a storm -- and Schmitt will definitely hit the fan(s).

Pick: West Virginia 28-21
Bill Gleason Last Week: W Season:5-1
By the time you read this you'll probably be sick of all the clichés being thrown about concerning this game, the battle for Big East supremacy and such. Despite what the media will try to portray, this game means more to Louisville than West Virginia.

That's right. I said it. The pressure is squarely on the anointed media darlings of the lowly Big East. The Cardinals are laying the wood to everyone they play, well, except for South Florida, the juggernaut. West Virginia, on the other hand, is getting the shaft from the media over the entire Big East demise.

Don't agree? You think that a WVU squad sitting 5-1 with the exact same schedule to this point barely squeaks into the top 25 before the ACC raid? You are high if you do. You honestly believe that BC, all of the sudden, becomes a Top 15 squad with their move to Tobacco Road? Yeah.

There's no pressure on West Virginia. Everyone thinks we stink. Even some of our own fans. It is a good thing that our football team begs to differ.

Louisville is actually playing some defense this year. Their offense is amazing. And they're getting ready to get slapped with the most physical brand of football they've ever experienced. This isn't CUSA. And you aren't going home with our championship. Payback for the Elite 8 commences at 3:30 Saturday in Morgantown.

Pick: West Virginia 38-23
Matt Keller Last Week: W Season: 4-2
This game should be worth three in the prediction standings, as it's one of the most difficult to call ever. Louisville's home vs. road persona is well-documented. The Cardinals dominate foes at home, averaging 64 points, but have been outscored 35-23 on the road. That bodes well for West Virginia.

But the surface matchups seem to slant toward the Cards. WVU has difficulty defending the pass, the staple of Bob Petrino's attack. Underneath that aerial assault, Louisville is vulnerable to quarterback pressure and a team that can control the ball. The Mountaineers will do both.

The key will be lack of turnovers and heady play from WVU's secondary. If it can limit Louisville to one big play, West Virginia has a chance. U of L will not score 50 points if West Virginia does not help it. A short field will spell BCS doom for either team.

It reads here that physicality and solid tackling and pressure will lead West Virginia to a win. Look for the Mountaineers to control both lines of scrimmage, get a big special teams gain (Pat McAfee needs to hit nearly everything) and lockdown the U of L run. If it does that and limits the pass, it can win even with a turnover. If it allows chunks of yardage, then it will need to be plus-two to have a shot. It won't come down to that.

Pick: West Virginia 31-28

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