Fearless Picks: WVU - Cincinnati

It's the first of three crunch time weeks for both the Mountaineer football team and our panel, who have hereded along like sheep with similar picks for much of the season. Who will get sheared this week as WVU travels to Cincinnati?


It wasn't a great week for the pickers, as only Chris (14 points) and Taylor (15) manged to come under the twenty-point miss mark. Only three selectors had West Virginia scoring fewer than 30 points, which appeared to be logical thinking.


Andy held on to the lead, but a 32-point miss puts him in danger of dropping to the middle of the pack if he loses his one game lead.

Andy Easton Last Week: W Season: 8-1 Pt Diff: 138
It looks like this is just going to be one of those years that the Mountaineers just can't find a way to put together one game where all three units are clicking. Is it coaching or the players' focus? Who knows, but that seems to be standard operating procedure for the 2009 season. Playing two quarters a game will work against some teams, but not against Pitt, UC or maybe even Rutgers. The Bearcats are running on all cylinders and are ready to take the next step to another Big East Championship.
Pick: Cincinnati 31-17
Taylor Jones Last Week: W Season: 7-2 Pt Diff: 112
Coming off what many people have called a "bad" win (is there really such a thing?), the Mountaineers are traveling to Cincinnati to face hands down their biggest game of the season. No doubt it will be a difficult game against an extremely talented team. However, as Reed Williams said after the Louisville game, the Mountaineers are still waiting to play a game in which every aspect of the game clicks, so if that happens against the Bearcats, it will undoubtedly be a great matchup. Hopefully, coming in as an underdog will light a fire under the Mountaineers to help them play with a passion needed to pull off the upset.
Pick: West Virginia 38-35
Jane Donovan Last Week: W Season: 7-2 Pt Diff: 119
Before the UConn-Cincinnati game ended, it seemed that UConn had finally found a chink in the armor of the seemingly-invincible Bearcats. I'm sure that Stew & company studied that game film as if it were the first ultrasound photos of their own first-born, and I hope against hope that they found the chink and have a plan to attack it successfully. Realistically, with Chris Neild dinged, Scooter Berry hurt/living in the doghouse, Jarrett Brown nicked up and Noel Devine less than up to par, my usual optimism is seriously challenged this week. Can Jock Sanders be all things to all people? Will this be Geno Smith's coming out party? Do we have enough big, healthy bodies to deploy an effective defensive line? Did I lose my way and start writing the teaser for next week's episode of "Desperate Housewives"?

I'm about to do something I've never, ever done before. I really and truly hope I'm wrong. I would rather be wrong than be Fearless Picks champion.

Pick: Cincinnati 42-17
Cam Huffman Last Week: W Season: 7-2 Pt Diff: 125
Picking the Mountaineers to lose is probably the smart pick, but I can't gain any ground on the rest of the pack by making the obvious selection. So I'll pick with my heart and my Mountaineer pride and forget everything else. Is picking the visitors the educated pick? No. But I'm a Mountaineer first and a writer second. This is the biggest game we have played in at least two years, and there are a few weaknesses in Cincinnati's defense, as UConn exploited last week.

I will never forget in 2003 when all the "experts" were discussing a Virginia Tech-Miami showdown for the Big East title. WVU ruined those plans by knocking off the third-ranked Hokies before that "dream" matchup took place. Six years later, the talk is all about a title clash between No. 4 Cincinnati and No. 8 Pitt. Once again, the 7-2 Mountaineers are the forgotten part of the equation. History will repeat itself, and West Virginia will pull off the upset. LET"S GO MOUNTAINEERS!

Pick: West Virginia 34-30
Matt Keller Last Week: W Season: 7-2 Pt Diff: 126
This had bad match-up smeared all over it for West Virginia. The Mountaineers don't have enough playmakers in the secondary, don't have enough talent or defensive lineman to harass UC's pass protection and, on the flip side, WVU's offensive line likely won't be able to handle the 3-4 set, especially with a sizeable opposing offensive tackle. The Mountaineer front five has been average throughout the year, and if neither Brown nor Devine can get space and time in which to operate, this offense will put up similar numbers to what it has the past few games – and that's not good enough to challenge to win, let alone do so. West Virginia needs Collaros to make a few mistakes or press and for its special teams and offense to at least play with limited to no mistakes. Again, I'll believe it when I see it for the first time this year as a whole.
Pick: Cincinnati 28-14
Brian Jolliff Last Week: W Season: 7-2 Pt Diff: 145
Late Wednesday evening I received a message from the boss that said, "Where are your picks? I'll need them soon". Regardless of the fact that holidays tend to screw up my comprehension of what day of the week I'm on, I have not been looking forward to this week's prediction. This week's match-up with Cincinnati will be WVU's toughest challenge of the season with the Bearcats holding a perfect record. Logically you might look at Cinci's game with UConn, where the Huskies were able to keep pace with Cincinnati's offense and fall by only two points in the end... then if you consider the Mountaineers' four-point victory over UConn a few weeks ago, you would start to believe that there is a chance for a win with this squad. But for that to happen, West Virginia will need to do something that it has yet to do this season -- play a complete and error free game on both sides of the ball. As to why I feel that they will be able to do it this week, since they have not been able to do so in the previous nine games is uncertain, but I'll keep the glasses on one more week and call this one in favor of the good guys.
Pick: West Virginia 38-35
Patrick Southern Last Week: W Season: 7-2 Pt Diff: 151
So much for all that talk about cupcakes last week. West Virginia faces its most stern test of the season by far in the form of Zach Collaros and the high-flying Bearcats on Friday night. While there is no doubt that Bill Stewart has spent the better part of the last week playing up the underdog role to his team, there is just too much of a gap between these two teams for motivational tactics alone to overcome. UC received a wake-up call on defense in its win over Connecticut. We saw what Brian Kelly and Collaros can do on the other side of the ball in the same game. This one won't be close.
Pick: Cincinnati 38-21
Chris Richardson Last Week:W Season: 7-2 Pt Diff: 159
Countless times during my days at the Blue and Gold News, Kevin Kinder and I traveled to Cincinnati to watch the Mountaineers and Bearcats do battle. All but one of those trips were to the Shoemaker Center for basketball games, which always featured excruciating late-game breakdowns by WVU, leading to a bad late-season loss on the tournament resume. I swear those games followed the same script every time.

The lone trip we made in which WVU was successful, though, was a 36-hour jaunt two seasons ago. We left Morgantown on Friday night after watching Bob Huggins win his Mountaineer debut over Arkansas-Monticello (ironically, the Boll Weevils are now one of my chief rivals). We roughed it all night to Cincy, slept in on Saturday, covered the football game Saturday night, got a few more hours of sleep and headed back to Morgantown for a 1:00 tipoff on Sunday afternoon in the Coliseum against Prairie View A&M.

Now that I'm a time zone away from Kinder on Cincy weekend, I fully expect the tide to turn. The Mountaineers will make the plays down the stretch to defeat the Bearcats in roundball the next time they play at Shoemaker Center. Unfortunately, they'll get waxed on Friday night at Nippert Stadium. Cincinnati is on a mission, no matter who plays quarterback. West Virginia is still searching for its identity as a team in mid-November. That, combined with the UC passing game licking its chops for WVU's much-maligned secondary, spells disaster on Friday night for the Old Gold and Blue.

Pick: Cincinnati 38-20
Bill Gleason Last Week: W Season: 7-2 Pt Diff: 160
At times the Cincinnati offense has looked unstoppable, regardless of who is taking the snaps. They spread the field and throw the ball to any number of different receivers, tight ends and running backs. Running backs and tight ends in the passing game against this defense is like blood in the water for the Bearcats. Couple that with injuries ravaging an already thin defensive line, the team's best linebacker and perhaps the team's best safety, and this does not look pretty.

On the other side, comes a West Virginia offense that early in the season looked like it was every bit explosive enough to score 35-40 on anyone, anytime, anywhere. However, this offense has been but a shadow of itself since the concussion to Jarrett Brown in the first quarter of the Marshall game. Call it the concussion, call it the lack of confidence in the porous offensive line protecting him, but this unit has not strung three straight scores together since the first quarter of the Syracuse game. That does not bode well against the conference's best offense and arguably its best defense.

The winner in the trenches wins this game. That is an ugly situation for the old gold and blue.

Pick: Cincinnati 49-10
Greg Hunter Last Week: W Season: 6-3 Pt Diff: 154
WVU has won 12 of its last 16 Big East road games, but UC is a very tough challenge. WVU has to find a way to slow down UC's big-play passing attack, and it has to play nearly mistake-free on offense – a difficult combo.
Pick: Cincinnati 31-24

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