Fearless Picks - MU

Wipe the slates clean! It's time for a new season of picks from the gang at BlueGoldNews.com.

What's football season without sticking your neck on the chopping block? The BlueGoldNews.com crew does just that as they begin another round of Fearless Predicitions for the 2006 season. Last year, Cam, and Chris went 12-0, and thus shared the title. (Cam points out that he was closest to the final score of the Sugar Bowl, and that fact should give him the title. I'm sort of inclined to agree with him, but in following Coach Rod's dictum that we forget last year, I'm not going to open that can of worms.)

To prevent a repeat, we're including point differential in this year's picks. So, our staffers will have to sharpen their Vegas skills! Now, on to the picks.

Greg Hunter Last Week: -- Season: 0-0 Pt Diff: 0
I'm not quite as confident of an easy Mountaineer win as others. Rich Rodriguez's teams generally haven't started the season strong, and a couple WVU turnovers could very easily make this game closer than many expect. If West Virginia gets out to a strong start, I believe Marshall will quickly wilt. But if WVU allows the Herd to hang around, this could be a battle.
Pick: West Virginia 35-17
Andy Easton Last Week: -- Season: 0-0 Pt Diff: 0
Marshall enters the 2006 campaign looking to improve on a 4-7 2005 season while the Mountaineers look to take claim of their first national championship. At some point during this seven game series mandated by our fine Governor I believe the Herd will find the victory they seek over the Blue and Gold, but it's not going to be this year. This version of the Mountaineers are just too talented for a rebuilding Marshall.
Pick: West Virginia 38-13
Chris Richardson Last Week: -- Season: 0-0 Pt Diff: 0
Another year, and hopefully another successful season of picks for myself. Last season ended with Cam Huffman and I doused in the proverbial Blue and Gold Gatorade as we shared the Fearless Picks title. Nothing against Cam, but I'd prefer to just win it myself this year.

West Virginia fans are predicting a blowout. Marshall fans are predicting an upset. Vegas is saying 22, or 22.5 depending on where you look. I'm saying there's no way Marshall can beat WVU this year. Not with WVU's abundance of talent, and not at Mountaineer Field on opening weekend.

Does Marshall have a chance? They did, until Hiram Moore (who in my opinion is their most dangerous player and the player who would have given the Mountaineers the most matchup problems) earned himself an ESPY nomination for next year's inaugural Terrell Owens Leadership Award with last Friday's arrest and subsequent suspension for at least the WVU game. Moore's absence leaves a big hole in Marshall's offense, and should allow physical Mountaineer secondary players like Eric Wicks and Antonio Lewis to focus on stopping running back Ahmad Bradshaw without having to worry about getting beat deep by Moore.

Will it take the Mountaineer offense a while to get cranked up? Possibly. But once they do, look out. This game will be decided long before the fourth quarter comes around, unless you're one of those Vegas types. Of course if the unthinkable happens and Marshall wins, you won't be hearing from me for weeks as I will either be a) in solitary confinement for the protection of myself and others, or b) on a multiple state killing spree.

Pick: West Virginia 38-10
Cam Huffman Last Week: -- Season: 0-0 Pt Diff: 0
As much as I would enjoy writing down 156-0 as my prediction, forecasting that The Herd would once again weasel its way out of the contract after such an embarrassment and foretelling of a future that would see the Mountaineers, after putting up 600 yards rushing in the season opener, ranked No. 1 in next weeks polls, I am going to fight off those temptations and try to give an honest assessment of Saturday's matchup.

Expect both teams, playing almost strictly on emotion at first, to make a few mistakes early. Marshall will still be in the game at the half, probably down 10-14 points, but late in the third quarter talent will begin to take over. West Virginia will score three times in the final 25 minutes to earn the win over their stepchildren from Huntington.

Other statistics from the game will include 100-yard games from both Patrick White and Steve Slaton and a 20-plus-yard score from Owen Schmitt. Marshall will score as a direct result of a WVU mistake, and it will tack on at least one more score off of a big play.

The 22-point West Virginia win will not be enough to send the baby buffalos looking for a way out of the series just yet, but, of course, there is always next year.

Pick: West Virginia 38-16
Jane Donovan Last Week: -- Season: 0-0 Pt Diff: 0
In about 1978 or thereabouts, Bette Midler recorded a lovely little ditty that may soon replace the fight song of a certain green school on the Ohio River. It went something like this: "Don't wish too hard for what you want, cause then you might get it, and then when you get it, you might wish that you had never been born."

No one is less happy about the enforced "Friends of Coal Bowl" than Rich Rodriguez, and he will have the Blue and Gold fired up and ready to play. I hope Rich can find a way to lay 100 points on the Marshans, avoid injuries to all of our key players, and, afterwards, I hope the visitors realize they didn't really want this game at all and cancel the rest of the contract, even if it means we have to play Eastern Washington again next year. I also fearlessly predict that Gov. Manchin will be roundly and thoroughly booed.

Pick: West Virginia 56-7
Bill Gleason Last Week: -- Season: 0-0 Pt Diff: 0
West Virginia comes in off of perhaps the best football season in school history with a big win over Georgia in the Sugar Bowl. Marshall comes off their worst season in 21 years.

West Virginia returns virtually their entire offense, sans two offensive linemen. Marshall also returns much of their offense, although they lost two wide receivers this month, one to injury and one to stupidity.

West Virginia's biggest losses personnel wise come on defense where four of the five defensive backs, including spur and bandit, have used up their eligibility. And while the Mountaineers do not appear to be lacking in talent, until you get on the field in front of the crazies you just never know. Marshall returns a good nucleus of their defense which was one of the best units in CUSA last year.

I expect two things. One, I expect Marshall to be much better this year. They don't have the turmoil of the coaching change, and their quarterbacks, all three of them, have a year more experience in the system, throw to familiar wideouts and handoff to a very good tailback. Two, I expect WVU to be much better this year. Remember that this offense didn't actually play together for the first half of last season. And while people like to point out that we lost to Virginia Tech and struggled with Syracuse, which was terrible, and East Carolina, which wasn't very good, they forget that Steve Slaton was an afterthought until the middle of the Tech game and Pat White was splitting time behind Adam Bednarik. From the time Pat White took the field when Bednarik got hurt, the Mountaineer offense looked unstoppable, even against Georgia.

Look for Marshall to put up a good fight and score more points than people think by filling the air with spirals and mixing in Ahmad Bradshaw to keep things honest. However, the new timing rules put the game right into WVU's style of play. Look for West Virginia to throw 30 passes, run 50 times and score over 40.

Pick: West Virginia 45-24
Matt Keller Last Week: -- Season: 0-0 Pt Diff: 0
This intrastate rivalry always offers closer games than expected. This should be no different. West Virginia has more talent and better athletes on both sides of the ball, which often translates into being able to recover from mistakes. First games always promise some, and if the Mountaineers can avoid duplicating their five-turnover performance from last season, there is no way they should lose. Look for superior play from the WVU offensive line, plus too much misdirection and confusion, offensively and defensively, for the Herd. West Virginia's 3-3-5 odd stack should cause fits, and if the secondary can stay with wideouts for three seconds while the front gets pressure, MU quarterback Bernie Morris will struggle. Even slick tailback Ahmad Bradshaw might be bottled, but his ability, combined with Marshall's penchant for the pass and total sell-out offensively for the game they want to win more than any other this year could cause WVU problems. In the end, however, Flagship U, has too much of everything.
Pick: West Virginia 34-21

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