Fearless Picks: West Virginia - Pitt

The Brawl has us all fired up, and there's not much love for the Panthers in this week's picks.

PICKIN' AND GRINNIN'

Andy Easton (or his ghostwriter) laid down the second best pick of the year with a three-point miss of the final score of the West VirginiaCincinnati game. He (or his ghostwriter) will have to continue such efforts if he is to catch the rest of the trail pack that has one loss on the season. Chris Richardson continues to lead the overall contest, much to the chagrin of some of the senior staff members.


NOSE PICKING

Bill and Greg are undoubtedly discouraged by the fact that their score picks have been relatively good – but for the Louisville loss, both would be battling for the lead. Instead, they trail Chris and Matt, and must anxiously await the latters' picks to see if a selection of Panthers or Scarlet Knights might give them the opportunity to tie. Cam, apparently discombobulated by his move to South Carolina, fell into a next-to-last place tie with Jane.


Chris Richardson Last Week: W Season: 9-0 Pt Diff: 126
Let's put it like this: Matt Keller and I are the Pat White and Steve Slaton of the Fearless Picks. We may have been bottled up early in the game, but sooner or later you knew that the big play was coming. Now, the others can do nothing but watch the backs of our jerseys as we sprint into the end zone untouched, and then receive a fifteen yard penalty for hoisting the Fearless Picks Championship Trophy high into the air for the wannabees to see. The only difference is that Pat and Steve's runs are replayed over and over on SportsCenter. Matt and I, on the other hand, will have to kindly remind our fellow staffers of our success by word of mouth. Of course if you know either one of us, then you know that the trash talk shouldn't be much of a problem. On to the game...

The Mountaineers and Panthers may not be meeting on Thanksgiving Day this season, but there will be plenty of reminders of everyone's favorite festive feast-filled holiday during Thursday night's game. For starters, the Panthers are as cooked as that well-done turkey that will be in the middle of your table next week. Slaton and White will take turns carving up this Panther-flavored feast. And, with the mouth-watering match-up of West Virginia's explosive offense against Pitt's pathetic defense, anything the Mountaineer defense can do on top of everything else is all gravy.

As for Pitt, there will be plenty of questions following the latest late-season collapse in Oakland. Pitt fans can take solace in the fact that at least their Panthers are the winningest occupants of Heinz Field this season. Then again, that's not saying much.

Pick: West Virginia 49-21
 
Matt Keller Last Week: W Season: 9-0 Pt Diff: 154
West Virginia looked shaky against the only other quarterback it faced that has come close to the playmaking ability of Pitt's Tyler Palko. The senior signal caller (first in the Big East in pass efficiency at 173.8, more than 20 points better than WVU's second-place Patrick White) scrambles effectively, and when he escapes, his eyes search downfield for openings. Those might appear in the Mountaineer secondary, which will get its second-strongest test of the season as it begins to shuffle the line-up in search of the best combination. The Panthers also have playmakers at wideout and enough of a running threat in LaRod Stephen-Howling's 89 yards per game to force the focus away from any one area.

Pitt has also increased its speed at linebacker, with WPIAL and PIAA state 10 meter champion Tommie Campbell, originally expected to play in the defnesive backfield. The speed improvment should negate some of the longer gains White, who ran for a career-high against UP last year, and WVU tailback Steve Slaton, and unless WVU can throw somewhat effectively, it could be limited by a new-look UP defensive alignment. Add in above average special teams and poor footing on a slower track, and the match-ups, outside of White and Slaton, lean to Pitt.

Many are chalking this up in the win column. It's a bit too early for that. Look for this game to playout much closer than anticipated, and for WVU's defense to get a better test -- and surrender more yardage -- than expected.

Pick: West Virginia 38-31
 
Bill Gleason Last Week: W Season: 8-1 Pt Diff: 117
The Mountaineer offense continues to run roughshod over everyone they face. And the national scene cleared up a bit as several teams ranked ahead of WVU fell by the wayside. The Big East title is still there for the taking. A BCS berth is out there for the taking. And this is Pitt week. Something tells me that motivation won't be a factor.

The defense looks good at times and not so good at others and down right bad at a few more. My belief is that Pitt can't hold WVU under 40. My belief is that the Pitt offense can't keep up with WVU's offense. Anyone who wants to run smack after giving up 40 points to UConn can apply at "Idiots-R-Pitt".

The Brawl becomes a maul. Again.

Pick: West Virginia 45-17
 
Greg Hunter Last Week: W Season: 8-1 Pt Diff: 120
Palko is playing well, and Pitt's offense won't be easy to stop. But still the Panthers haven't shown they can slow down a good rushing attack, especially one as potent as the Mountaineers'.
Pick: West Virginia 35-24
 
Cam Huffman Last Week: W Season: 8-1 Pt Diff: 130
It's the Backyard Brawl, and as long as I am in a sane frame of mind I will never pick the Panthers. This year, though, I don't think I have much to worry about. Pitt's passing game could provide some problems, but when you put Coach Rod up against "Wanny," I will take the West Virginia native every time. Look for more than 300 yards on the ground and an improved performance in the secondary. The game may not be on Thanksgiving this time, but a 9-1 record will be plenty to be thankful for.
Pick: West Virginia 38-21
 
Jane Donovan Last Week: W Season: 8-1 Pt Diff: 130
When I was an undergraduate at WVU, my physical science teacher, Stan Farr, greeted us in class the day before the Pitt game by telling us we'd have a filmstrip that day. You remember filmstrips? If you do, you're older than you're letting on. The filmstrip wasn't about physical science. It was a 1920s college football promotional film that lasted about 10 minutes. When the lights came back up, Dr. Farr was standing on top of his desk with 2 blue & gold pompoms, and led the class in the (older version) "Let's go, Mountaineers!" cheer. He then dismissed class by informing us that our homework assignment for the weekend was to Beat the Hell Out of Pitt. We did.

In honor of Dr. Farr, let it always be so.

Pick: West Virginia 45-21
 
Andy Easton Last Week: W Season: 8-1 Pt Diff: 137
West Virginia will surely have problems with the Pitt passing game. Likewise, the Panthers will again experience difficulty slowing the Mountaineer running attack. In a battle of strengths, which will prove more formidable?

In the end, it comes down to a question of weapons. Even with Owen Schmitt slowed, West Virginia appears to have more. Another win for the road team in the Backyard Brawl.

Pick: West Virginia 37-31

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