Fearless Picks: WVU-Rutgers

After seven games, it's finally arrived: our pickers do no have a unanimous outlook on this week's game.

PICKIN' AND GRINNIN'

LAst week was a monster outing for the panel. Cam missed the final score by just 14 points, and that was the worst pick of the week. Bill took the weekly honors with a four-point miss, while Matt (five points) Chris (seven) and Greg (eight) all had single-digit misses.


NOSE PICKING

It's tough to fire any arrows when the group had such a good week, so we'll hold them back for a double barrage next week. The pack is going to unbunch just a bit, as two pickers don't see good news for the Gold and Blue.


Greg Hunter Last Week: W Season: 6-1 Pt Diff: 110
The key for WVU not just stopping Rice but also containing Underwood and Britt. If WVU can limit their big plays, it is fine, but that's easier said than done. Offensively WVU just needs to continue to do what it does. As always, turnovers will be huge; WVU is +1.00, while Rutgers is -0.43.
Pick: West Virginia 28-24
 
David Velegol Last Week: W Season: 6-1 Pt Diff: 122
West Virginia is back hitting on all cylinders -- both on offense and defense. Rutgers let it all hang out against South Florida, as Ray Rice carried the ball 39 times. The key to the game is the turnovers. In West Virginia's big games on the road – Louisville last year and South Florida this season – the Mountaineers killed themselves with turnovers. Those games were in the evening, which really gives the home team a significant advantage, but this game is a noon start. West Virginia needs to get off to a quick start that will allow it to get into a rhythm, and everything will fall into place. The upperclassmen need to win this important road game, and I trust Coach Rodriguez will let them.
Pick: West Virginia 37-17
 
Jeff Mason Last Week: W Season: 6-1 Pt Diff: 128
This may be the most difficult WVU game to predict in 2007. RU and West Virginia are 2-1 versus common opponents with the Mountaineers losing by eight at USF while the Knights lost at home by ten to Maryland. Two of the last three WVU-RU matchups have been decided by five and two points (in overtime), respectively, so this could be the third ever overtime game with Rutgers (WVU leads 2-0 winning in extra time in 2000 and 2006). Coach Rod's road record since 2001 is 23-12 while the Knights have won 14 of their last 18 home contests. Rice versus Slaton, White versus Teel are just the tip of the iceberg. It could be a nail-biting, nerve-racking affair decided by the final play. I'm going out on a limb and predicting that White will play most of the game and have one of his finest performances as will Slaton. So too, most importantly, will the Mountaineer defense. After three quarters it will be tied 20-all but WVU will come back from a 27-20 deficit to win with one of those fourth quarter touchdowns a defensive score that puts the final nail in the Scarlet Knights' coffin. West Virginia makes it 13 wins in a row over Rutgers.
Pick: West Virginia 37-27
 
Andy Easton Last Week: W Season: 6-1 Pt Diff: 131
Over the past few seasons, Rutgers football has finally turned the corner and is now a Big East power. The Scarlet Knights won their first bowl game last season and made its first trip to the top 10 in the past year, but two items remain unfinished: winning the conference championship and beating the Mountaineers. WVU has been a thorn in the side of Rutgers, much like Penn State was to West Virginia for many years. The Mountaineers have dominated the last 12 meetings, going 12-0 with an average score of 45-17. But just like WVU beat Penn State, Rutgers will eventually beat West Virginia, and that time is upon us.

WVU's offense can move the ball on the Rutgers defense and I think WVU's defense can slow down the Rutgers offense, but some games are won and lost on intangibles. Emotion and home field advantage, among other factors, can be the deciding factor in a game, as it will in this one.

West Virginia loses its chance at another BCS bowl game while Rutgers moves toward its first BCS game.

Pick: Rutgers 27-24
 
Chris Richardson Last Week: W Season: 6-1 Pt Diff: 134
Remember a few weeks ago when I said West Virginia still had one step to make before reaching the nation's elite class? That step, if you'll recall, is consistently coming through in the big moment. The Mountaineers have done so in recent years against Georgia and Georgia Tech, but failed against Boston College, Louisville last season, and South Florida (twice).

Make no mistake about it: if the Mountaineers take the next step, it will happen on Saturday. Without question, the game against Rutgers is the most important of the season. A win keeps WVU's slight national championship hopes alive, and puts the Mountaineers in the driver's seat for another BCS bowl. A loss, however, ends hopes of the former, and severely cripples chances for the latter.

West Virginia's defense has definitely improved by leaps and bounds from a year ago. If nothing else, the confidence level and wealth of experience displayed by Tony Gibson's secondary is the key cog in the revamped Mountaineer 'D'. At the same time, West Virginia has not faced an opponent with a talent level that even resembles Greg Schiano's Scarlet Knights. Mike Teel, Kenny Britt, and Tiquan Underwood spearhead the conference's most dangerous passing attack, while All-American candidate Ray Rice routinely racks up big yards and lots of touchdowns.

As much as it pains me to do so, I have to go with my gut. Rutgers gets it done at home for the second straight week.

Pick: Rutgers 34-31
 
Bill Gleason Last Week: W Season: 6-1 Pt Diff: 152
Quietly the Mountaineers have moved into position for an at-large berth, at minimum, for a BCS bowl on the strength of an ever-improving defense. The glitz and glamour of the WVU offense continues to be tarnished by the only person on the planet who can hold WVU under 40 points per game. Until that person wakes up and realizes that passing the ball beyond the line of scrimmage is a legal maneuver, the Mountaineer offense will struggle behind an underperforming offensive line. Wasted are the opportunities to pass against lesser defenses with a nice cushy lead. Now is when the real season begins.

While the most explosive offensive talent ever amassed in Morgantown trudges along, the Mountaineer defense works harder and harder each week to add a little luster to a unit that is still considered the Mountaineer weak spot – at least by those who have votes but don't even bother to check out WVU occasionally.

Throw the matchups out the window. Until Rich Rodriguez opens up the playbook and takes a few chances and steals the crowd away from the Knights, this game will be a war. I still have too much faith in the WVU talent to pick against them, but it is time for someone in charge to give that faith a re-fueling. The defense wins this one for the Mountaineers.

Pick: West Virginia 31-17
 
Cam Huffman Last Week: W Season: 6-1 Pt Diff: 156
I have been debating this one all week. On Tuesday I was ready to pull the trigger and pick the Scarlet Knights. I think Rutgers has a very good football team, and playing in their place will be a very stiff challenge. As many others have warned, it is going to happen eventually. One day we will see the unthinkable, and Rutgers will defeat the Mountaineers.

After much debate, though, I have decided this will not be the year. The reason is Patrick White. All the game film in the world and thousands of reps against the scout team cannot come close to preparing a team for the quickness and speed of West Virginia's quarterback. The Knights may know WVU inside and out, but you cannot truly understand White until you have faced him. White's absence last year when the two teams met in Morgantown will turn out to be a blessing as RU will be left with its mouths hanging open after White posts 100 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Look for a healthy Slaton to top the century mark as well.

Pick: West Virginia 31-27
 
Matt Keller Last Week: W Season: 6-1 Pt Diff: 179
What's little publicized about Rutgers is that its passing game is actually out gaining its rush attack by more than 40 percent more yardage per game. RU throws the ball downfield effectively, and with as well as No. 9 West Virginia has bottled the power running game against nearly every foe, it might be RU quarterback Mike Teel and receiver Tiquan Underwood, absent from last year's 41-39 triple overtime WVU win with an injury, who make the big plays, if not the most imperative ones, for the Knights.

The Mountaineer offense should be able to move the football. It has yet to be stopped except by itself, and if it does not turn the ball over a significant amount (read: two or more times), it has enough ability and execution to score 28 points. The game will turn on if West Virginia can limit ray Rice to a workmanlike performance while also holding down the pass game in key third down situations. If the receivers run free, RU will employ its ball control style behind Rice and ride out a close win. If the road team stops the pass and simply slows the run, it will remain in contention for a Big East title. The game is essentially an elimination match. The winner still competes for a BCS berth; the loser begins looking at December bowl games.

It reads here that West Virginia makes enough plays to win. Teel, despite a thumb injury, will complete downfield passes and allow RU to hold onto the ball more than the Mountaineer coaching staff would like. But, with Rutgers getting what is hopefully a full-game dose of quarterback Patrick White for the first time and a fresher Steve Slaton than the one that ran against the Knights last year, it appears WVU has too much. Add in the line changes, and the old gold and blue are beginning to hit that much-needed stride at the right time. Rutgers' Greg Schiano, 0-6 against WVU since being named head coach in 2001 is due. He will continue to be.

Pick: West Virginia 31-24

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