PICKIN' AND GRINNIN'
The race among the one-loss brigade continues to be tight, with the ladies holding the top two spots. No ERA needed here, as Jane and Taylor have distinguished themselves all year. Most everyone had picks in the neighborhood last week, but Jane's four-point miss helped vault her back into second place.
Andy could be feeling the pressure to keep his lead, because a loss, combined with wins from those below him, would drop him back to the middle of the pack based on point differential. He'll need to keep his perfect record intact, or nail a couple of final scores, to protect his current spot atop the standings.
Greg's 15-point margin from the final score certainly is no cause for shame, but it was the worst on the panel last week. It's been something of an off year for the head man, but he's certainly happy that WVU's record is better than his.
|Andy Easton||Last Week: W||Season: 7-0||Pt Diff: 92|
|The Bulls have beaten the Mountaineers two out of the last three times which doesn't bode well for the Blue and Gold having to travel to Tampa. If the Mountaineers continue their practice of only playing a half of a game, it will get ugly in a hurry. If West Virginia can limit the mistakes and be passionate for four quarters, it can beat anyone.|
|Pick: West Virginia 27-24|
|Jane Donovan||Last Week: W||Season: 6-1||Pt Diff: 77|
The last two weeks it has appeared that South Florida is doing its annual mid-season swoon, but even so, you can never count them out. I can't believe George Selvie is still there -- it feels like he's been a thorn in our collective paw for at least a decade, but I guess when an opposing player is that good, it only seems like he's been in college forever. Handling Selvie and Pierre-Paul will be a big challenge. WVU's OL performance has never been more crucial.
However, I'm betting on the swoon.
|Pick: West Virginia 24-14|
|Taylor Jones||Last Week: W||Season: 6-1||Pt Diff: 79|
|The warm weather of Tampa will be a nice change from the recent weather that the Mountaineers have been forced to play in. No doubt, injuries will still be plaguing the Mountaineers and one can only hope that guys like Reed Williams, Ryan Clarke, and Jarrett Brown are back to 100%, or at least close to it. As predicted early in the season, it still seems as though USF will be one of the Mountaineers' more difficult games of the season, but I think despite all of the injuries against them, WVU will pull off the win.|
|Pick: West Virginia 28-21|
|Cam Huffman||Last Week: W||Season: 6-1||Pt Diff: 82|
|This is the second week in a row that the intangibles have provided a tough task for the Mountaineers. A short week of preparation, a long trip and a hungry Bulls team full of talent and motivated to prove that it is better than what it has shown the last couple of weeks could work against the Mountaineers. This WVU team, though, seems to be one of those groups that finds a way to win no matter what it has to do to get there. It has done it with the run, it has done it with the pass and it has done it with defense. It has done it with its top defenders on the sidelines, it has done it with a backup quarterback and it has done it with the entire country rooting against it. The only time it didn't happen was during the Mountaineers' last trip down south, and Bill Stewart's club has grown up a great deal since that loss to Auburn. WVU will find a way to win another tight one.|
|Pick: West Virginia 26-20|
|Matt Keller||Last Week: W||Season: 6-1||Pt Diff: 87|
|West Virginia has better balance now than it did in its two losses to South Florida. The Bulls defense doesn't have the raw talent it once did, and it isn't executing effectively against squads with a similar run-pass slate as that of WVU. The Mountaineers can't match Cincinnati's downfield passing game, but have better big-play potential in the run game. Pitt crushed the Bulls via the air, and that with a base running game and a quarterback that isn't a rushing threat. The West Virginia offense, even hurting itself, has yet to score less than 24 points in a game. The defense, outside of the offensive debacle, has yet to allow more than that much. If the Mountaineers don't turn the ball over, they should be able to punch in three to four times. The latter will be enough.|
|Pick: West Virginia 27-20|
|Brian Jolliff||Last Week: W||Season: 6-1||Pt Diff: 105|
|USF poses one of WVU's toughest challenges this year on defense. Look for WVU's offense to answer that challenge with a more diverse offensive attack than the Bulls are used to this Friday night. Once again, the biggest variable in this game will come down to turnovers and special teams...two areas that WVU has struggled with multiple times this season. Jarrett Brown should be sharper this week with the additional recovery time from his injury and a full week of practice. Noel Devine continues to impress and could have success up the middle or on short swing passes to get outside of the USF's defensivee containment. Is USF in the middle of its seasonal slide? We'll all find out this Friday evening, but I've got the good guys pulling this one out.|
|Pick: West Virginia 35-24|
|Patrick Southern||Last Week: W||Season: 6-1||Pt Diff: 106|
So much for another hot start for South Florida. The Bulls were the talk of college football after managing to beat Florida State despite the fact that it was USF's first game without the services of quarterback Matt Grothe, the Big East's all-time leader in total offense for a career.
B.J. Daniels and company have taken their lumps since that victory. The conference's two most highly-ranked teams have even proceeded to make the Bulls' much-ballyhooed defense (anchored by two of the better defensive ends in all of college football) look ordinary at best.
While it's hard to imagine Jim Leavitt's program taking three straight losses to Big East foes, that seems to be the likely outcome of Friday night's clash at Raymond James Stadium. West Virginia's coaching staff has had plenty of opportunity to dissect the film from both Cincinnati and Pittsburgh's wins over USF, and thus, has the blueprint for victory in hand.
|Pick: West Virginia 27-14|
|Bill Gleason||Last Week: W||Season: 6-1||Pt Diff: 113|
West Virginia travels to the home of its most difficult puzzle this week
to face the team with what should be the most talented defense in the league. For the
last two weeks, though, that defense has leaked like a sieve.
The question is, can the Mountaineers mount a defense strong enough to give the offense a chance to win the game? And can the re-tooled West Virginia offense break out of its three season dry spell against the Bulls?
I truly have no idea. What I see on paper is a South Florida team with no consistent passing game bolstered by an average, at best, rushing attack. It looks to me like a game the Mountaineers should win going away. Once again, in my mind the only thing that stops this West Virginia team, is this West Virginia team.
|Pick: West Virginia 27-17|
|Chris Richardson||Last Week: W||Season: 6-1||Pt Diff: 123|
Two years ago, West Virginia rolled into South Florida on a Friday night for what was being hailed as the biggest game in USF history. The Bulls acted accordingly, upsetting Pat White, Steve Slaton and Company in front of a nationwide television audience only to fall flat on their face for the rest of the season (just like they seem to do every year).
This year, there is decidedly less hype surrounding the meeting at Raymond James Stadium, but for the Mountaineers, this game is every bit as big as it was two seasons ago. A win over the Bulls allows West Virginia to keep pace with conference heavyweights Cincinnati and Pitt. By comparison, a win for USF does very little with regard to their bigger picture for 2009.
Simply put, this game means more to WVU than it does to USF. On top of that, the Mountaineers have unquestionably been the more consistent team. The call here is that they'll keep that going.
|Pick: West Virginia 38-27|
|Greg Hunter||Last Week: W||Season: 5-2||Pt Diff: 111|
|Earlier in the year, I had this match-up penciled in as a WVU loss. After all, Jim Leavitt's Bulls always seem to play their best when WVU is across the field. But USF's defense is not currently the powerhouse it's been in the past, and WVU's balanced offense would seem better suited to put up good numbers against the Bulls than the one-dimensional unit of the past.|
|Pick: West Virginia 24-17|