There certainly wasn't much to smile about last week, as none of the panelists foresaw South Florida's upset. Chris' picks the first two weeks, which were only off by a total of eight points, continue to provide him with a comfortable margin over Matt. He was also the only picker to miss last week's score by fewer than 20 points.
Nothing we can say would better (or worsen) the results from last week, so let's just move along. Well, we will bust on Bill for his totally inaccurate statement about the defense., which was certainly made out of frustration.
|Chris Richardson||Last Week: L||Season: 10-1||Pt Diff: 152|
|I've wrestled with this pick all week. In fact, I didn't send it in until Friday afternoon (some two days after the preffered deadline set by the man who doesn't pick.) But you know what? I'm in first place. The rules don't apply to me. I'm sure a few of my colleagues will think that the Rich Rod to Bama talk has been a distraction to the team, and thus they'll blindly pick Rutgers. What they don't realize, though, is that West Virginia is still the much better football team. The much better football team will not lose for the second straight week. Plus, it's a night game in Morgantown. Then again, I'm doing the game story for the third time this season. Wanna guess when the other two times I've done it is? Yep. I'm a curse. If the Mountaineers lose this game, it will only be because of my karma.|
|Pick: West Virginia 31-27|
|Matt Keller||Last Week: L||Season: 10-1||Pt Diff: 185|
This game, for once, is more about emotion or flatness and the intangibles than the match-ups upon which we often harp. Rutgers stuffs the run, but would not likley have been effective against West Virginia should it have been healthy. But with quarterback Patrick White hobbling and with the nagging turf toe injury, tailback Steve Slaton's bum wrist and overall soreness heading into game 12 of the longest season in WVU history and fullback Owen Schmitt still recovering from an ankle sprain and knee tweak from the Cincinnati game, RU might prove able to slow the Mountaineers.
Will head coach Rich Rodriguez respond with better play calling, offering the complement of a forward pass to the arsenal? Or will WVU again get stubborn and try to run into a wall of a front that is the best it has faced this season? Are the players distracted by the Alabama rumors, or focused because of it being Senior Day? And for what, exactly, is there to play for West Virginia? It will not likely help its bowl situation, it won't win the Big East, and it is out of the BCS barring a miracle win by Connecticut over Louisville. It reads here that West Virginia comes out flat, but a night game at home carries it.
Slaton will run well, and the Mountaineer defense, which fits up nicely against Rutgers save its great play at tight end, again plays solid enough to get a win in a contest that is closer than some might expect. The Scarlet Knights have never played well at Mountaineer Field. They will this time, but it won't be enough against a WVU team that will finish with a second consecutive 10-win season - and surprisingly be let down by it.
|Pick: West Virginia 28-24|
|Bill Gleason||Last Week: L||Season: 9-2||Pt Diff: 153|
The unstoppable WVU offense was made to look quite pedestrian by the USF defense. The WVU defense is an embarrassment. Worst Mountaineer defense since 1980, and it isn't even close.
The WVU effort last week, despite claims to the contrary, was quite inadequate. The Mountaineers blew a shot at a BCS berth and a share of the Big East crown. Hard to imagine a team that couldn't get motivated for a potential shot at the Rose, Sugar or Orange Bowls getting all revved up for a shot at the Texas Bowl.
Rutgers can clinch a spot in the BCS with a win, and they bring a much better defense to town than did USF. WVU injuries to key people are starting to pile up, and the coaching carousel distractions can't help.
|Pick: Rutgers 30-20|
|Greg Hunter||Last Week: L||Season: 9-2||Pt Diff: 155|
|These aren't the Knights of old. Still on paper, Rutgers doesn't seem to matchup well with WVU. Its inability to throw effectively is a huge drawback, and while Rutgers' D is solid, the Mountaineer ground game appears better, as long as it doesn't come up with another USF-type effort.|
|Pick: West Virginia 27-24|
|Jane Donovan||Last Week: L||Season: 9-2||Pt Diff: 159|
It's been kind of difficult to get enthusiastic about making a fearless
prediction this week, but even if time doesn't heal all wounds, it does make it
possible to resume normal activities after a few days. It's Senior Day. Dan
Mozes and Jeremy Sheffey, the heart/soul/leadership of this particular edition
of the Mountaineers, will be highly motivated to go out with a win in their last
home game, but Rutgers will not roll over and play dead. This will be as
contested a game as we've played all season, and it may devolve into a passing
duel between Pat White and Mike Teel.
Questions for discussion: What kind of a game will Rich call this week? Will Owen Schmitt be at reasonably full steam and able to block and bash as usual, which is clearly essential to the success of West Virginia's running game? How bad is Pat White's toe? The answers to these inquiries will tell the tale.
|Pick: West Virginia 28-24|
|Cam Huffman||Last Week: L||Season: 9-2||Pt Diff: 168|
Aside from a few great weeks-- like the UConn game where I was not only
almost dead on with the score but also was very close to predicting some
individual numbers-- I have been a little off this season. Every time I
think I have put my finger on this team, they find a way to completely catch
me off guard.
On my drive home from Morgantown last Saturday, though, I was sure I had the Rutgers game solved. West Virginia simply matched up well against the Knights, it has always played well coming off a loss in recent years and Knight contests in Morgantown are always special. I was convinced that the Mountaineers would roll and end an up and down season with one of the best memories of the year.
The events of the past week, though, have greatly changed the complexion of this game. With player's minds possibly on the R word-- I refuse to use his name in this space-- it is difficult to determine how focused the Mountaineers will be. Rutgers has attacked like a shark this year, and if it smells blood in the water West Virginia could be in big trouble.
As I said before, however, this team always finds a way to surprise me. Since I am expecting a sluggish performance, I am going to go ahead and forecast an offensive outburst, as Dan Moces and company refuse to let their final home game be marred by their turncoat coach. West Virginia will be bowling in the land of Gators after a 31-17 victory, and the Cardinals from Louisville will back their way into a BCS game.
|Pick: West Virginia 31-17|
|Andy Easton||Last Week: L||Season: 9-2||Pt Diff: 175|
This is a tough game to predict, with WVU banged up and coming off its worst performance in two seasons. The matchup favors WVU in that Rutgers is a running team and the Blue and Gold have been successful in stopping the run. But, what if Mike Teel and the Rutgers offense takes to the air? Will Teels' interception tendencies be revealed or will the Mountaineer defense make the sophomore signal caller look like the next Brian Brohm?
Even if the Mountaineer defense steps up and shuts down the Knight attack, can the hobbled offense run the ball against the third-best run defense in the country? If the run is stymied will Patrick White have time to find receivers against a Rutgers front seven that owns 32 sacks and 45 quarterback hurries?
This game is close with the deciding factor being the location and time: under the moon at Mountaineer Field. West Virginia just doesn't lose home games at night.
|Pick: West Virginia 27-23|