PICKIN' AND GRINNIN'
It looks like a two-man race to the title, as Greg holds a 12-point lead over David at the top of the standings in the battle for the regular season championship. Jeff's 34-poijnt deficit might be too much to make up, but there's always bowl season.
Chris' reasoning for picking against West Virginia just doesn't fly with us here. If he was lucky enough to make it all the way to Cincy for the game, Mountaineer fans are asked to keep a sharp eye out for him on the side of the road on Sunday, as it's unlikely he will be allowed to make the trip home in one of the fleet vehicles of the Blue & Gold News.
|Greg Hunter||Last Week: W||Season: 8-1||Pt Diff: 145|
|Turnovers are the key for each. UC has a great turnover ratio (+1.60), and WVU has won 26 straight when it turns the ball over less than or an equal number of times as its opponent. WVU wins the battle, and it wins the war.|
|Pick: West Virginia 34-21|
|David Velegol||Last Week: W||Season: 8-1||Pt Diff: 157|
You have a confident team who is playing well and has something to play for – the Big East Championship. Say what you may, but West Virginia is the Yankees, and Bearcat fans will fill the stadium. The crowd will be hostile as it is a night game on ESPN. The rule of thumb for home field advantage is three points, but I've always felt that night games give an underdog as many as 12.
As always, turnovers will play a huge factor in this game so Coach Rodriguez may play it closer to the vest than normal, which may keep the scores low and close. WVU has had some tough battles in Nippert stadium, and I anticipate the same Saturday night.
|Pick: West Virginia 24-20|
|Jeff Mason||Last Week: W||Season: 8-1||Pt Diff: 179|
Gulp! An analysis of WVU and Cincy's common opponents this year show almost identical power ratings with both teams winning three of four games and scoring the exact same 130 points in those games against Louisville, USF, Rutgers, and Marshall (although the defensive edge goes to WVU, which allowed only 78 points compared to the Bearcats' 98). Despite West Virginia's historic dominance over the Bearcats (13-1-1 series lead and 38-0 road and 41-24 home victories over Cincy in '05 and '06), every scrap of evidence points to a very close game.
While the edge usually goes to the home team in such matchups, I'm picking the Mountaineers to get by the River City Boys in Bengal Town by the slightest of margins. Coach Rod's seven years of experience trumps Coach Kelly's rookie inexperience in the Beast of the East conference (not withstanding Kelly's experience at Grand Valley State and Central Michigan), but that is only one factor. More importantly, I am going to assume WVU will limit or even zero out in the turnover department and that both White and Slaton will have huge games. The Mountaineers will build a double-digit lead and barely survive a "Maukkrieg" passing onslaught in the fourth quarter to triumph. Those with pacemakers should pop in the video/DVD/Tivo of the Rutgers game.
|Pick: West Virginia 27-25|
|Bill Gleason||Last Week: W||Season: 8-1||Pt Diff: 183|
West Virginia wins the turnover battle, West Virginia wins big. West Virginia loses the turnover battle, and the night will be long and painful.
Expecting a stadium record crowd, likely to be made up of at least 10,000 Mountaineer fans, Cincinnati is openly discussing the Big East title. UC has an opportunistic defense and a solid offense. West Virginia is just better in every phase of the game, no matter the location.
|Pick: West Virginia 38-17|
|Cam Huffman||Last Week: W||Season: 8-1||Pt Diff: 190|
|Everybody is pointing to this game as a major trap, and the Mountaineer Nation seems more worried about the Bearcats than it has been for any other game this season. Everybody is comparing this game to the South Florida game, stating that all of the circumstances are the same. Maybe I am stepping into the same trap that Chris Richardson tripped in before the USF game, but I just don't see what all of the fuss is about. This is not the same as the South Florida game. There will be half the people in the stands, and Cincinnati simply does not have the same speed that South Florida possessed. "Sure," you say, "but Cincinnati beat South Florida didn't they?" That statement is correct, but Cincy had to hold on despite the fact that USF made more mistakes than WVU made against South Florida and Louisville combined. The only way West Virginia loses is if it gives Cincy all of the breaks it gave USF and Louisville, and I don't see that happening. West Virginia is ready for Cincinnati's "big stage," and even Bob Huggins can't help the Bearcats now.|
|Pick: West Virginia 38-20|
|Matt Keller||Last Week: W||Season: 8-1||Pt Diff: 205|
It's difficult to argue with Andy Easton's thought that points off turnovers, and turnovers in general, will be the difference. Cincinnati likely has the mental and intangible edge entering, with a sold out home crowd and as much on the line as can be remembered in recent time. UC's quarterback play is as good as any team West Virginia will face, and Ben Mauk's scrambling ability is a bit scary when combined with his receivers and the spread offense giving him added opportunities. The Mountaineeers will need to establish the running game, and do it against a solid, though, it reads here, not overly stout defense.
With all the press the Bearcats have gotten, it remains that Cincinnati has largely survived on turnovers, yes, but also its ability to move the football. UC hasn't seen any team with the overall speed of West Virginia, and I'm not yet convinced how good this defense truly is. The Mountaineers must - must - hold onto the football. If WVU does that and doesn't get burned in special teams, it should be fine. This game's a nailbiter, down to the cuticle. It doesn't have to be, but blase' play calling demanding superior athleticism on one end and a hyped bunch with superior snap innovation and selection on the other will create it. Survive and advance; this is the last major challenge.
|Pick: West Virginia 32-28|
|Chris Richardson||Last Week: W||Season: 7-2||Pt Diff: 169|
In football, when the game is winding down and you're in desperation
mode for victory, you do crazy things like fake a punt or field goal, or
go no-huddle with 11 minutes to go trailing by three scores. In
basketball, when you're trailing late in the game, you press full court,
try to get easy baskets, and extend the game by letting the other team
shoot free throws in hopes that they miss, allowing you to make up some
ground. What, you may ask, does one do when facing a similar
back-against-the-wall scenario in the BlueGoldNews.com Fearless Picks?
That's easy. Pick Cincinnati.
You see, I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that my colleagues here are all picking the Mountaineers. Someone else might step up to the plate and pick the Cats, but I doubt it. I don't care. I want to win, "irregardless" of the circumstances. Only time will tell if this is a stroke of genius, or simply the last act of a desperate man.
Then again, is it really out of the question for Cincinnati to defend its home turf and take out West Virginia? The Mountaineers have been turnover-prone in big games this year, and Cincinnati's defense is among the nation's best in takeaways. On top of that, the best way to beat the Bearcats is to throw the ball down the field, which is something that rarely happens in a WVU game. So there you have it. All of my eggs are in one, black and red Bearcat-stamped basket.
|Pick: Cincinnati 31-24|
|Andy Easton||Last Week: W||Season: 7-2||Pt Diff: 176|
The Mountaineers have dominated the 15-game series with Cincinnati, winning 13 times, but these Bearcats have more bite than previous editions. Coach Brian Kelly's troops have won their last four games against nationally ranked opponents and have climbed into the top 25 themselves after impressive wins over USF and UConn.
With the Mountaineer offense not quite clicking on all cylinders this game comes down to one statistic: 'Points Off Turnovers'. The Bearcats are 8-0 when they turn miscues into points, and 0-2 when failing to score from turnovers. If West Virginia turns the ball over more than one or two times, the Blue and Gold will suffer its second loss of the season.
|Pick: West Virginia 27-21|