Fearless Picks: WVU - Western Michigan

It's back! (Even if you didn't miss it.) This years BlueGoldNews.com Fearless Picks is bigger (more contestants) and better (a cash bonus) than ever before. Hopefully, the entertainment value will continue to meet your expectations and rise as well. On to Week One!

Chris Richardson Last Week: -- Season: 0-0 Pt Diff: 0
Let's face it: last year wasn't even close. I left my competitors in the dust for the second consecutive season, cruising to the Fearless Picks title and all the bells and whistles that came with it. By bells and whistles, I mean a mythical prize which amounts to nothing more but bragging rights and a badly needed boost in self-confidence. Maybe we should just start calling this feature "C-Rich Says"? Maybe not. It's a new year, and I know my colleagues will be the worthiest of opponents yet again in 2007.

When we last saw the Mountaineers, they were rallying from a seemingly insurmountable deficit in the Gator Bowl against Georgia Tech. Of course none of that matters now as a new season is set to begin with everyone on the schedule looking to knock off the Blue and Gold.

First up is pesky Western Michigan. The Broncos will certainly provide more of a challenge than last year's opening day opponent, but still won't come close to pulling off an almost impossible upset in Morgantown. Still, Bill Cubit's pass-heavy playbook should be a good barometer for what will hopefully be an improved Mountaineer secondary. It wouldn't surprise me if the Broncos hung around for the first quarter and a half of play, but eventually talent will take over. The Mountaineers survive Week One.

Pick: West Virginia 45-17
Matt Keller Last Week: -- Season: 0-0 Pt Diff: 0
A spread offense - even a power one - often takes addition snaps to jell and get the timing down compared to a more traditional set (I, pro, etc.) because of the zone blocking and multiple reads. Hence, first games are among the most difficult to diagnose and predict. The No. 6 Mountaineers have more talent and skill than Western Michigan. What they might not possess is a mental approach that a MAC team is perhaps better than initially thought. WVU runs well, racks up 250 yards on the ground and wins. But it takes until the late third quarter to secure the victory. Beware the turnovers; they will keep the Broncos in the game.
Pick: West Virginia 35-17
Bill Gleason Last Week: -- Season: 0-0 Pt Diff: 0
What does one get for $2 million per year? A pre-season #3 ranking in the AP Poll, two legitimate Heisman candidates, the best offensive firepower in school history, the best fullback in the country bar none, a slot receiver/return man who would be THE star in many other places, a backup QB who might be the third best QB in the Big East and a true freshman class that has barged its way into town and worked its way right into some first year playing time.

The fact of the matter is that if West Virginia can play defense even marginally better than in 2006 that there should not be a game on the schedule in which the Mountaineers aren't favored by at least seven points.

Western Michigan brings in the honor of being the pre-season Mid American Conference favorites, a new coaching staff and the return of a starting QB who tossed 20 TDs as a freshman and what could be the best home opponent behind Louisville in 2007.

There's only one football out there. Don't think that the Mountaineers will be busy trying to take it from each other. Once again WVU wins the turnover battle and the dominating rushing attack overwhelms a lesser foe.

Pick: West Virginia 54-17
Greg Hunter Last Week: -- Season: 0-0 Pt Diff: 0
Since 1983, West Virginia is 17-0-1 against Mid-American Conference opponents. Only three of those games have been decided by 10 points or less ('94 vs. Ball State, 16-14; '92 vs. Miami of Ohio, 29-29 tie; and '91 Bowling Green, 24-17), and certainly none of those were powerhouse Mountaineer teams. Western Michigan has the ability to present some problems, and the Broncos' stingy defense will pose an interesting match-up for Slaton, White and friends. Still, if WVU is half as good as we think, the Mountaineers win this one going away,
Pick: West Virginia 42-14
Jane Donovan Last Week: -- Season: 0-0 Pt Diff: 0
A member of the national news media has started referring to returning WVU superstars Patrick White and Steve Slaton as "Whaton" or "Slite." I prefer a different combination of their names: "Stat" -- as in get it going immediately. ("Gatorade I-V, Stat!)

Assuming that Stat is ready to get this thing started, the bucking Broncos will be broken in short order. Stevie gets his 200 yards in the first half, then takes a well-deserved rest. Pat gets in a rhythm early and Jarrett Brown gets mop-up duties in the middle of the 3rd quarter. No trick plays, no fancy-schmancy offensive tweaks will be revealed. Rich is saving those for next week. Oh, and BTW, the new entrance for the team is cool. Carrie Ann Inaba gives it a 10.

Pick: West Virginia 48-21
Andy Easton Last Week: -- Season: 0-0 Pt Diff: 0
The Mountaineers are used to opening the season against a Mid American Conference foe with the game usually ending in a blowout, but Western Michigan is not just another MAC team. The Broncos will bring a stout defense and a spread offensive attack to Milan Puskar Stadium on Saturday afternoon, expecting to pull off the upset of a top ten team.

The Broncos are probably the fifth or sixth best team on the Mountaineer schedule, a schedule that has been ranked as high as 21st toughest in the country, although other rankings put WVU in the fifties and sixties.

With that being said, if the Blue and Gold can limit turnovers and play solid defense, the Broncos will ride back to Kalamazoo with a record of 0-1

Pick: West Virginia 34-17
David Velegol Last Week: -- Season: 0-0 Pt Diff: 0
Coaches speak of getting used to the game speed. There is game speed and then there is West Virginia speed. It's nearly impossible to prepare for Steve Slaton and Pat White - especially in the first game. The backups will be allowed to produce once Steve and Pat take the afternoon off and with WVU's depth there isn't much drop off. With a 3:30 p.m. kickoff the crowd will be ready.
Pick: West Virginia 47-13
Jeff Mason Last Week: -- Season: 0-0 Pt Diff: 0
Although over the long haul, WVU has only won eight of its last 16 home openers, the Mountaineers are 26-4-1 versus MAC teams and have won five of six home openers in the Coach Rod era. Meanwhile Western Michigan has only won two of 23 road openers since 1984. But, it won't be quite as big a margin of victory as WVU's 34-9 win over the Broncos in 1996. Unless Jarrett Brown comes into the game as a reliever in the fourth quarter and plays like he did against Rutgers, West Virginia will triumph in a game less close than the score actually indicates. All the better though to give the Herd a false hope of springing the big upset in Huntington in week two--that's when WVU's offense will pour it on!
Pick: West Virginia 31-13

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