Fearless Picks - Pitt

There's no indigestion among our panel of pickers as they dissect the WVU-Pitt game.

Andy Easton Last Week: W Season: 9-0
Ah, it's the holiday season and the annual Backyard Brawl is once again upon us. Watching this year's game against our neighbors to the north will have special meaning to me, as I will be watching the game from a hospital room with my recovering wife and brand new bouncing baby boy. Little Daniel Banks Easton will arrive just in time to see the Blue and Gold dismantle the Panthers in front of a hostile home crowd and national television audience.

There is too much on the line for the Mountaineers to come out flat against Dave Wannstedt and his troops. The Panthers have only won seven of their last 39 games as a road underdog while WVU has won 37 of their last 47 as a home favorite. The EIEIOs down the Yinzers handily…

Pick: West Virginia 52-24
 
Chris Richardson Last Week: W Season: 9-0
I think back to the night of September 3. Much of the Blue & Gold News staff was in a Syracuse hotel room watching Charlie Weis era at Notre Dame get off to a roaring start with a blowout win over Pitt. Hunter pointed out how small the Pitt defensive line was. Kinder remarked that the Mountaineers recruited one of Pitt's defensive ends as a safety. That spells trouble for a team going up against the three-headed monster of Owen Schmitt, Steve Slaton, and Pat White. There's no way the Panthers can stop West Virginia's running game.

Also, this game is a nighttime affair in Morgantown. The Mountaineers are a perfect 7-0 in home night games under Rich Rodriguez.

A night game, a poor run defense, and a shaky offense will combine for a perfect storm of Panther disaster. I don't like pumpkin pie, but a Mountaineer blowout will be a delicious dessert to my Thanksgiving turkey.

Pick: West Virginia 52-10
 
Greg Hunter Last Week: W Season: 9-0
Pitt's preseason hype came crashing down with its 1-4 start. It has righted the ship somewhat as of late, but WVU is still the better team. The ball can take funky bounces in rivalry games, but talent wins out more than not. WVU has more talent.
Pick: West Virginia 28-20
 
Cam Huffman Last Week: W Season: 9-0
If this were any other WVU team I would have to pick the Panthers. Everything just seems to be in place for an upset. Pitt is playing its best football of the season, it has a bowl game on the line and the Mountaineers are supposed to be a big favorite. Usually those ingredients combine to make an upset special, and the Panthers have the talent to pull it off.

But this West Virginia team is just different. I really don't know how to explain it, but every time I see a possible hurdle these Mountaineers clear it faster than a deer leaping a two-foot fence. Maybe this team truly has something special, maybe WVU's coaches are doing a great job of keeping them focus or perhaps this team is just too young to know any better, but it has met every challenge head on and not been affected by adversity.

Although I am still a little worried, I have no reason than to predict more of the same this time out. Look for a Thanksgiving-sized helping of Steve Slaton and Pat White on the ground and a few surprises in the passing game. West Virginia's offensive line, with a healthy Dan Mozes leading the way, will completely dominate the Panthers' front, and Mike Lorello will pull off a Senior Night interception on the other side of the football to help set up a Big East championship game on Championship Weekend Dec. 3 in Tampa.

Pick: West Virginia 36-24
 
Chuck McGill Last Week: W Season: 9-0
A wild turkey has apparently taken Chuck hostage, as he was unable to provide a pick this week
Pick: Turkey 7 - McGill 0
 
Jane Donovan Last Week: W Season: 8-1
This is the 30th anniversary of the legendary 1975 WVU victory over the Pitt Panthers, 17-14, decided by a Mountaineer field goal kicked with four seconds left on the game clock, a victory that sent us to the Peach Bowl where we defeated Lou Holtz and his NC State Wolfpack. I still have my "Smack the Pack" lapel button.

At the risk of revealing entirely too much about my age and growing tendency to annoy the young with misty-eyed reminiscences of those golden days of yore, I will confess that I was a student at WVU, sitting in the bowl of the old stadium, about four people down from the guy who caught that football. The stadium erupted, we stormed the field (yes, it was allowed in those days, or at least not prohibited), and after a suitable interval, we carried our celebration out of Mountaineer Field and into the streets of Sunnyside where we held the very first ritual couch burning. That was the day and the game that turned me into a true football fan. In the intervening years, I've gained enormous joy, occasional distress, and some deeply treasured friendships from staunchly following the Gold and Blue.

It may be 2005, but the intensity and bellicosity of the Backyard Brawl has never lessened, despite reduced student attendance in recent years due to the Thanksgiving game date. Despite their struggles this year, we can never, ever, ever count Pitt out. They will most definitely bring their A game, and we'd better do the same. We will. Dan Mozes, the favorite son of Washington, Pa., will see to that.

Pick: West Virginia 34-28
 
Bill Gleason Last Week: W Season: 8-1
West Virginia continues to climb in the BCS rankings (11th this week) while steamrolling to a share of the Big East title for the fourth time and third year in a row. Pitt is improving after early season blunders against hapless Ohio and less than stellar Nebraska.

West Virginia is playing for the conference crown, the BCS bid, the Big East's credibility and the pride of the home folk. Pitt needs to win to reach a bowl game.

West Virginia brings the #8 rushing offense in the country. Pitt brings the #73 rush defense. Pitt brings the #93 rush offense. West Virginia brings the #4 rush defense.

West Virginia scores 30.44 points per game. The Mountaineers haven't lost a game under Rodriguez when scoring 30 or more points. Pitt is giving up 19.8 points per game, 26th in the land. West Virginia is giving up 17 points per game, 11th in the land.

Pitt has a stellar pass defense. West Virginia has a stellar defense. There is no reason to believe that Pitt's defensive numbers won't improve this week, seeing as how West Virginia throws the ball once during every presidential election year.

And what does all this mean? Squat.

This is the Backyard Brawl. Both teams could be 0-10 and this game would be an all out war. Pitt leads the all-time series by a wide margin, but since Don Nehlen took over in 1980 West Virginia has taken command of the series. Under Walt Harris, Pitt had split the series in the past six games.

West Virginia will stifle Tyler Palko and Steve Slaton and Pat White will continue their coming out party in front of a national audience. The Big East title will sit in the Puskar Center again this season, and Pitt will join Bing Crosby in singing "There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays".

Pick: West Virginia 34-16
 
Matt Keller Last Week: W Season: 7-2
Pitt is playing as well as it has all season. Some will claim that West Virginia is hitting on all cylinders, but it reads here that the Mountaineers played only decently versus poor teams in wins over Connecticut and Cincinnati. WVU relied on Pat White converting numerous third and long situations, and Pitt's athletes are far superior to UConn's and Cincy's

The Mountaineers could not finish last season -- losing its final three games -- and though another collapse doesn't seem likely, one must consider the possibility that Pitt, if it can maintain an average running game and attack WVU's corners, can pull an upset. The Panthers' major liability, besides having fewer athletes and players than West Virginia, is its head coach, which might make some of the most questionable game calls in the nation. Dave Wannstedt is no Mike Martz, and will put Pitt in a bad position at least once during the game. WVU must capitalize. If it doesn't, it can easily lose.

Pick: West Virginia 34-31

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