Fearless Picks: WVU-East Carolina

There's a slight shuffle in the standings, and most of the pickers have closed ground on frontrunner Chris Richardson after one-fourth of the regular season is complete. However, with the entire gang seemingly picking the same score for the ECU game, there probably won't be much movement this week.

Chris Richardson Last Week: W Season: 3-0 Pt Diff: 33
The first road game of the season is upon us as the Mountaineers invade Bagwell Field at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium on Saturday afternoon. East Carolina is a good team, but they are not in the same class as these Mountaineers. West Virginia's young secondary will be tested by quarterback James Pinkney, but I think they're up to the test.

Defensively, the Pirates cannot stop the run. In fact, the rushing yard differential on Saturday could be as sizable as Matt Keller's deficit in the Fearless Picks. In the end, West Virginia has just way too much talent for the Pirates.

Pick: West Virginia 48-17
Greg Hunter Last Week: W Season: 3-0 Pt Diff: 38
WVU can't make mistakes, but if it continues to play hard-nosed, smart football, it's hard to believe East Carolina, even with a dangerous passing attack, can keep pace with West Virginia's high octane ground game.
Pick: West Virginia 45-17
Bill Gleason Last Week: W Season: 3-0 Pt Diff: 39
East Carolina comes off a performance that got Joe Lee Dunn fired from his defensive coordinator job. Coincidentally, Dunn is considered to be one of the foremost experts in the 3-3-5 defense that West Virginia runs, albeit in a much different style.

ECU brings a high-powered offense led by Aundrae Allison, who torched the Mountaineers for ten grabs last year. James Pinckney returns on the throwing end of that combination, and Skip Holtz is hoping that his second season turnaround will enable the rest of his team to catch up to his talented offensive duo.

It is hard to imagine that this Pirate defense could slow this version of the Mountaineers. And while many pundits might quickly point out that ECU gave the Mountaineers fits last year and even had a shot to win, it isn't likely that any of them will remember that Steve Slaton was not a key figure in the backfield and Patrick White had not yet emerged as the #1 quarterback for an offense still searching for its identity.

The young Mountaineer secondary will get perhaps its biggest test to date and that will undoubtedly help down the road. But the defense will be able to slow down the Pirates enough for an easy victory in Greenville.

Pick: West Virginia 45-17
Andy Easton Last Week: W Season: 3-0 Pt Diff: 42
The Mountaineers are 4-1 at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium with the only loss coming in the 1995 season, 23-20. Look for the Mountaineers to get their fifth win in Greenville as this Blue and Gold unit has too much experience, speed and talent for this up and coming Pirate squad.

West Virginia has won 28 of its last 32 regular season games, is 11-0 in the last eleven games played in September and is currently riding a 10 game winning streak and six game road winning streak.

Pick: West Virginia 48-17
Cam Huffman Last Week: W Season: 3-0 Pt Diff: 42
While many Mountaineer fans are citing last year's 20-15 squeaker of East Carolina in Morgantown as a reason to be cautious with Saturday's predictions, I am using it for just the opposite.

The only chance that a team like East Carolina, which is so dreadful against the run, had against WVU was for the Mountaineers to show up flat and not play its brand of football. But with reminders of the five-point win ringing in its ears all week long, West Virginia will be ready to play, and the Pirates will suffer the consequences. Last year win Skip Holtz's troop stayed with the Mountaineers, Patrick White and Steve Slaton spent much of their time watching the game from the sidelines. This time around, they will spend that time in the end zone.

Slaton will top the 200-yard mark again, and this time he will not lose it before the game's conclusion. The WVU superback will also find the end zone three times, and White will pick up another touchdown run on the ground. Jarrett Brown will finish the game at quarterback, and he will find the end zone on the ground as well. The talk after the contest, as it has been all season, will concern whether WVU has the ability to pass the football. But as long as Rodriguez's system keeps racking up yardage on the ground, I am all for keeping the passing playbook wired shut.

Pick: West Virginia 52-13
Jane Donovan Last Week: W Season: 3-0 Pt Diff: 53
Even though "Pirates of the Caribbean" was the summer's big movie hit, that success will not translate to a victory for the East Carolina Pirates, who are not located in the Caribbean, this Saturday. If Skip Holtz is anything like his dad, though, Dan Mozes & co better make sure that Pat White and Steve Slaton are well-protected. Alert readers will note a semi-subtle reference to Major Harris's injury on the 3rd play of the 1989 Fiesta Bowl. Lou Holtz was the opposing coach in that game who, in his new book, is rather cavalier about the cause & nature of Major's injury. Mozes and the gang will handle their responsibilities just fine, and WVU's Terrific Trio in the backfield will have a good scamper.
Pick: West Virginia 45-7
Matt Keller Last Week: W Season: 3-0 Pt Diff: 54
West Virginia managed just 127 yards rushing against East Carolina's even (4-3) front in last year's 20-15 home win. Part of it was apathy and part execution, and in the Purple Haze of 48,000-seat Dowdy-Ficklen, the yards figure to be more difficult by which to come. Offensive coordintor and running backs coach Calvin Magee said that "watching the game film, it'll (tick) you off all over again."

The Mountaineers, however, have lost but once in the venue, in 1995 under the 'Curse of the Blue Pant.' At No. 4, WVU is the highest ranked foe to vist Greenville and the banks of the Tar River since Miami in 1988. And like that season, West Virginia has more talent than either the Hurricanes or Pirates, and should coast to an easy win. It reads here, however, that ECU finds a way to slow -- not stop -- the West Virginia rushing game and bottles the pass just enough to keep ot closer than the experts believe.

Add in a scrambling signalcaller in James Pinkney -- an offensive aspect with which the 3-3-5 odd stack seemingly always struggles -- a solid tailback and a very god wideout in Aundrae Allison and East Carolina has enough weapons to hold the ball and score enough to stay in the game until the late third quarter. In the mid-80 degree heat, the Bucs wilt late despite one score via a trick play and WVU picks up its fourth non-conference win in as many games this season.

Pick: West Virginia 37-21

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