Fearless Picks: West Virginia - Louisville

Does anyone think that Louisville has the firepower to knock off West Virginia at home on Thursday night? The Blue & Gold News gang weighs in with their selections.

PICKIN' AND GRINNIN'

Bill Gleason takes weekly honors with the low miss of 14 points, which moved him back up into the pack. Other than that, the achievements of our staff were as gloomy and damp as the New Jersey weather last weekend.


NOSE PICKING

There was lots of competition for the dud performance of the week. Chris and Andy both fell to the bottom of the pack with loss predictions, while no one got closer than 14 points to the correct final score of 31-3. The resulting ballooning of scores could make for some interesting competition down the stretch, however, and as we've seen in the Big East conference, even two losses might not eliminate pickers from the title chase.


Greg Hunter Last Week: W Season: 7-1 Pt Diff: 134
Both teams are capable of big plays, thus the one which makes the fewest mistakes (turnovers, lost yardage plays, etc.) will almost certainly prevail.
Pick: West Virginia 37-21
 
David Velegol Last Week: W Season: 7-1 Pt Diff: 142
Think back to August, and it is nearly inconceivable that the point differential could be this high. However, the statistics and records really indicate that this game shouldn't very close. West Virginia needs a second consecutive statement nationally, and should get it.
Pick: West Virginia 37-17
 
Jeff Mason Last Week: W Season: 7-1 Pt Diff: 158
The Mountaineers can't help but be cautious and fully prepared for a donnybrook with a visiting Cardinal team with designs on springing yet another upset of a top ten team--an all too frequent occurrence in this wacky 2007 college football season. But WVU, 0-1 in Payback Games this year (after losing to the Bulls), will even its payback record with a harder than envisioned victory over Steve Kragthorpe's 5-4 Louisville team on Gold Rush Night at Puskar Stadium. The Cards' hopes will go bust despite their holding a surprising halftime lead as Coach Rod turns it over to "In White & Slaton We Trust". West Virginia pulls away thanks to 450+ yards of total offense combined by Mr. Nickel, Mr. Dime and Owen "Facemask" Schmitt and wins with a second half blitzkrieg. It won't be long now until it is time to cue John Denver's tune and celebrate WVU's dominance on Thursday Nights in the House That Don Built and Rod Remodeled!"
Pick: West Virginia 48-20
 
Bill Gleason Last Week: W Season: 7-1 Pt Diff: 166
It is finally here. The Thursday night showdown that the Big East expected would determine the Big East Champion and would most likely be a match up of two top ten BCS squads. West Virginia was expected to have plenty of offense to keep up with Louisville, but the Mountaineer defense was expected to be the cog that would keep WVU from taking the next step.

Ten weeks into the football season it is Louisville's defense that has let down new coach Steve Kragthorpe's Cardinal squad, and it is the Mountaineer defense that continues to improve every single week and help a WVU offense plagued by so-so offensive line play and predictable play calling. On paper it would appear that the Louisville defense is just what the doctor ordered for a masterful offensive show for the Mountaineers, but what remains to be seen is if the Mountaineer defense, number four in total defense in the Bowl Championship Division of college football, can withstand the 50-pass barrage from the right arm of Brian Brohm.

I'm taking the Mountaineer front six as the difference this year in getting to Brohm and throwing off his timing enough to enable the Mountaineers to pull away.

Pick: West Virginia 48-24
 
 
Cam Huffman Last Week: W Season: 7-1 Pt Diff: 180
The only way Louisville, or any team left on the schedule, can beat West Virginia this season is if the Mountaineers pull the trick they pulled at South Florida and hand it over to the opponent. WVU, though, appears to have learned that lesson, if not last year at Louisville then certainly in Tampa earlier this year. The two teams were almost exactly even last year -- 10 games probably would have been split 5-5 -- but now the advantage is in West Virginia's corner.

Louisville's offense is one step behind where it was last year, even though that is still five steps ahead of the rest of the country, and the Mountaineers' defense is at least three steps ahead. On the other side of the ball WVU's offense may be a half step behind -- I don't think the offensive line is quite where it was with Dan Mozes and Jeremy Sheffey -- but the Cardinals' defense is a few steps behind nearly every team in the league. All of those steps should add up to a walk in the park for WVU, especially considering the fact that the game is at Mountaineer Field at night. Everybody knows, that is when the magic happens.

Pick: West Virginia 38-21
 
Matt Keller Last Week: W Season: 4-1 Pt Diff: 200
Louisville's defense has become more stout of late, limiting two of its last three foes to less than 140 yards on the ground. All three - Cincinnati, UConn and Pitt - are run-first teams, and that bodes well for a Cardinal squad that had allowed265 and 260 yards to Middle Tennessee State and Utah, respectively. The tangible item is the same one of any solid ground defense: UL has seen nothing like West Virginia's spread attack. The No. 7 Mountaineers roll up an average of 40 points and nearly 300 yards per game. On the flip side, Louisville's passing game has kept pace with that of previous years, the Cards clicking for 361 yards per game, and scoring a mean of 37 points.

The major variable this game not present last year, besides home field advantage for West Virginia, is that the Mountaineers' 3-3-5 odd stack defense appears better able to handle the downfield passing game. Its two-safety look has aided both coverage of the deep ball and the corner play, and the run defense has remained as solid as ever. Look for more varying coverages with the added freedom and flexibility of the two-safety look, and a wrinkle or two in the blitz packages to limit the time UL quarterback Brian Brohm has. This is still a dangerous game for West Virginia, and likely the lone matchup remaining where a foe can score at the same rate. The new defensive aspects will provide enough help as long as the adages about penalties and turnovers adhere. The Mountaineers remain unbeaten at night under seventh-year head coach Rich Rodriguez, and win solidly, though not going away.

Pick: West Virginia 37-27
 
Andy Easton Last Week: L Season: 6-2 Pt Diff: 162
After picking the Mountaineers to lose to Rutgers last week, I only have one thing to say: Crow is best served well done, and tastes just like chicken -- well, not quite.

West Virginia is playing its best football of the season, while Louisville is playing much better than it did earlier in the season in losses to Kentucky and Syracuse. While improving, Louisville just doesn't have the talent to measure up to the 2007 Mountaineers.

By the end of the game on Thursday night, the Blue and Gold will be feasting on Cardinal, while I get this taste of crow out of my mouth.

Pick: West Virginia 45-24
 
Chris Richardson Last Week: L Season: 6-2 Pt Diff: 165
After picking West Virginia to lose to Rutgers, I'm down for the count in 2007. Not that anyone cares. (Ed. Note: Sure they do, Chris. Everyone that you beat into submission the past two years is delighted that you are in last place.)

Louisville isn't the walk-over that many Mountaineer fans seem to think, and West Virginia will be challenged if it is not focused. Let's get real, though. Nobody is walking into Mountaineer Field at night and coming away with a victory, particularly a team with as many defensive struggles as the Cardinals. They could bring back the great Tom Jackson, and he still wouldn't be enough to slow down Slaton and White.

Pick: West Virginia 42-31

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