Fearless Picks: West Virginia - Syracuse

Syracuse has improved, without question. Enough to knock off a Mountaineer team that has struggled with self-inflicted wounds? Our pickers weigh in on West Virginia's fifth game of the season.

PICKIN' AND GRINNIN'

Andy continues to set the pace with an undefeated record, but there are plenty of pickers in close pursuit should he stumble. Taylor took the weekly honors with a miss by just three points in the Colorado game, while Andy and Cam were just five off. Jane was also in contention, missing by just a touchdown, and would have nailed it exactly had the game been one play from scrimmage shorter.


NOSE PICKING

No one had a really bad week. Chris missed the final score by 17, but as he's already running basketball practices, it's tough to fault him too much. Will this week's picks provide more separation?


Andy Easton Last Week: W Season: 4-0 Pt Diff: 43
Let's face it, the Orange have been peeled by opposing BCS teams over the last four years, going 5-34. This team, however, seems to be improved under first-year head coach Doug Marrone. The Greg Paulus to Mike Williams connection will be something to keep an eye on during this contest, but I just don't think Syracuse has the athletes to keep up with the Mountaineers this year. Look for five WVU turnovers and a win.
Pick: West Virginia 33-21
 
Cam Huffman Last Week: W Season: 3-1 Pt Diff: 40
"This is a new Syracuse. This new coach is turning the program around. The Syracuse of old is coming back." I heard this all before when Greg Robinson got the job. How did that turn out?

This Orange team is better, but it still has a long way to go to match the Mountaineers in talent. The game may be close for a quarter or two, but the final result will never be in doubt.

Pick: West Virginia 36-16
 
Matt Keller Last Week: W Season: 3-1 Pt Diff: 46
The more potent offense here belongs to the road team, with much else being equal. The Mountaineers, winners of a school record three straight in the Carrier Dome, have better balance and big play ability than does Syracuse. But the Orange, via a few wins and playing competitively, have restored some of the intimidation into the Dome. If the ‘Cuse can avoid interceptions and get some help on special teams, it could pull a double-digit upset. It again seems, however, that it will take the Mountaineers to beat the Mountaineers. Look for a bit more conservation within the play calls from WVU offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen, especially if his squad can establish a large early lead or a solid edge later in the third quarter. If the West Virginia backfield plays well on both sides, a fourth win in the Dome is imminent.
Pick: West Virginia 31-20
 
Taylor Jones Last Week: W Season: 3-1 Pt Diff: 51
As round one of Big East competition begins, the Mountaineers will finally be back intact with the return of Scooter Berry. I foresee the game beginning close with the Mountaineers pulling away with the victory toward the end of the game. If WVU continues to get the ball in the hands of Noel Devine, I don't see how the offense can be stopped. I think the defensive backs will have a big game defending Mike Williams, and I think Syracuse will be a great matchup to get the Mountaineers adjusted to the intensity of Big East play.
Pick: West Virginia 28-14
 
Bill Gleason Last Week: W Season: 3-1 Pt Diff: 52
Hold on to the ball, and this could get ugly early. Drop the ball all over the dome, and this one could get ugly early.

Make no mistake, Greg Paulus is an upgrade at QB for the Cuse, but he still makes the kinds of mistakes that someone who has been away from football for five years makes. West Virginia's defense will shut down the run. WVU will not shut down Mike Williams, but will cause enough havoc to keep the Orange at bay.

Noel has a nice day running and catching, and look for the Mountaineer receiving corps to move back to the forefront against one of the nation's worst pass defenses.

Pick: West Virginia 45-27
 
Jane Donovan Last Week: W Season: 3-1 Pt Diff: 53
Your vocabulary terms for the week:

1. Dropsy: Archaic medical term for the swelling of soft tissues due to fluid retention or accumulation. Nowadays, we would call it edema, probably due to congestive heart failure. Dropsy is most often present in the feet or lower legs because of the effects of gravity; however, in recent weeks, it seems to have affected the hands of wide receivers and the occasional quarterback.

2. Dropsy Bowl: football contest between WVU and Syracuse, scheduled for Saturday, October 10 at noon.

Finally this week, the Mountaineers start firing on all cylinders, including passing game, running game, and special teams. Their advanced case of dropsy is miraculously cured by the laying on of hands by Rev. Stew and trip to the woodshed by Dr. Mullen.

Pick: West Virginia 35-14
 
Patrick Southern Last Week: W Season: 3-1 Pt Diff: 64
While Syracuse is much improved this season, let's not go overboard in our praise of the Orange. Wins over Northwestern and Maine basically show that this team has a pulse -- which is more than you could say about some of the SU teams of recent vintage.

Don't get me wrong -- Mike Williams is a player and Greg Paulus has enough natural ability to make some plays. But Paulus is still just over two months into his career as a college quarterback, and that inexperience has to count for something.

WVU will limit the Syracuse rushing game and force the Orange to be one-dimensional. With the chance to sit back a bit, disguise coverages to confuse Paulus and try to read his eyes, expect the Mountaineers to extend their streak of consecutive games with an interception.

Pick: West Virginia 41-17
 
Brian Jolliff Last Week: W Season: 3-1 Pt Diff: 65
Devine certainly did shine last Thursday night under a (almost) full moon in Morgantown, running for a career high 220 yards. I was only seven points shy of my prediction of a 42-24 victory,although the victory did not quite go as I had expected, with the Mountaineers still being plagued by turnovers. This week's game at Syracuse will be a serious test for a West Virginia secondary that has not played consistently so far this year. How well the WVU backfield is able to contain playmaker Mike Williams and how well the defensive front can get pressure on Paulus, will be the deciding factors on how many points Syracuse can put on the board. If those two things are accomplished, WVU will earn a relatively easy "W" this weekend. If not, the question becomes, 'Can WVU outscore Syracuse'? Look for the turnover problems to be mostly worked out and a better showing from the secondary.
Pick: West Virginia 35-17
 
Chris Richardson Last Week: W Season: 3-1 Pt Diff: 68
Count me in as a charter member of the Doug Marrone fan club. The Syracuse alum returned to his alma mater last December to take his dream job, and has since renewed much of the enthusiasm that was so dormant under Greg Robinson. While the Orange still have a long way to go, there is no doubt in my mind that they are heading in the right direction.

To Robinson's credit, the cupboard wasn't completely bare when Marrone arrived. Wideout Mike Williams (who missed last year with academic issues) and defensive lineman Art Jones are surefire NFL prospects. Delone Carter leads a deep and talented stable of running backs. And although SU didn't have a great recruiting class in terms of rankings or numbers (much of that due to Marrone's commitment to bringing in players that fit instead of simply getting warm bodies), the addition of Greg Paulus has been a big positive so far for the Orange.

At 2-3, Syracuse doesn't yet look like its "back" in terms of being in contention for a bowl bid. A win over the Mountaineers, though, would be a big-time statement for Marrone and his program. The view from here is that it will come close to happening. Close...but no cigar

Pick: West Virginia 38-31
 
Greg Hunter Last Week: W Season: 2-2 Pt Diff: 70
First-year SU head coach Doug Marrone appears to have the Syracuse football program headed in the right direction, but the Orange had reached such depths in the past that the climb up is tough and it won't be accomplished in a short span. WVU needs to come out early and make a statement, otherwise the Orange and its home crowd may start to get energized. But the Mountaineers should win this one handily.
Pick: West Virginia 35-20

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