PICKIN' AND GRINNIN'
As the field rounds the turn and heads for home, we have a new leader! Jane Donovan rode a very accurate 21-20 pick last week to the top of the leaderboard. Taylor's miss of just three points took the top honors from the Backyard Brawl.
We're not going to fault Bill or Chris for their loyalty, but had they missed by just a few points fewer, they could have been in contention for, well, something. Still, their 9-2 records keep them in the top half of the field.
|Jane Donovan||Last Week: W||Season: 9-2||Pt Diff: 147|
It seems like we have absolutely zoomed through football season this year. Is it really three months since the Liberty game?
So which Rutgers team will show up on Saturday? The team that blew out South Florida? Or the team that was embarrassed by Syracuse? I'm guessing neither, just plain ole Rutgers.
|Pick: West Virginia 28-21|
|Matt Keller||Last Week: W||Season: 9-2||Pt Diff: 154|
|West Virginia enters a second consecutive game healthy and with a defense that has proven itself adept when its front three is intact. Rutgers can challenge the Mountaineers from its Pistol formation, and slowing that type of run might prove difficult. WVU has more talent, though, and its kicking and rushing games are proven. The Knights are notorious for their defeats to West Virginia, and this should be more of the same. The timing and location of this one bothers me, though - it's closer than many Mountaineer fans think.|
|Pick: West Virginia 24-20|
|Andy Easton||Last Week: L||Season: 9-2||Pt Diff: 169|
|If there is one team in the Big East that would love to send the Mountaineers home with a loss, it the Scarlet Knights. The last time they beat the Gold and Blue, Ross Perot was running for President and the Redskins beat the Bills in SuperBowl XXVI. Looking at Rutgers' schedule, they really don't own a quality win, but I'm not sure that WVU does either. Can we really brag about beating a vastly overrated Pitt team? I hope West Virginia comes in motivated even though it looks like it has a Gator Bowl bid all but wrapped up.|
|Pick: West Virginia 23-21|
|Bill Gleason||Last Week: W||Season: 9-2||Pt Diff: 238|
To be honest, this game worries me less than any game in the conference schedule this year outside of the Syracuse game. Rutgers has some nice young talent and the ability to take advantage of some of WVU's weaknesses. But I've been very impressed with the improved play of the defense since getting all the starters on the field together for the first time in the Cincinnati game.
And while some people may not have seen it, the offense in the Pittsburgh game showed signs of the 30+ point per game team we saw before Jarrett Brown's head injury. A review of the Panther game shows an offense that was stopped much more by its own mistakes than stopped by a very good Pitt defense.
My one big concern is the post-Pitt hangover. Can this team rebound emotionally? This has not been an overly emotional squad all season, but the emotions of the Pitt game were evident early, during and after the game. This squad is a force to be reckoned with when they're playing with their mean-on.
|Pick: West Virginia 34-24|
|Chris Richardson||Last Week:W||Season: 9-2||Pt Diff: 271|
From the outside looking in, it appears as though there is little to nothing that can happen this weekend to hurt West Virginia's chances of getting a Gator Bowl berth. The Mountaineers seem to be the clubhouse leader for the Big East's final bid to Jacksonville, and while a Pitt upset of Cincinnati might at least make bowl executives take a long look at the Bearcats, the prevailing thought is that the bid is (wink wink, nudge nudge) WVU's.
To end the regular season, the Mountaineers head to the Big East's resident Jekyll and Hyde, Rutgers, which has looked equal parts unbeatable and unbearable this season. I suppose the question is which Scarlet Knights team shows up: the one which was pasted by Cincinnati and Syracuse, or the one which shut out South Florida a few weeks back?
The only thing I know for sure is that it will rain. It always does when WVU heads to Piscataway. Always. The Mountaineers haven't lost at Rutgers since September 10, 1994. Until that trend is broken, I'd be foolish to take anyone but West Virginia.
|Pick: West Virginia 27-21|
|Taylor Jones||Last Week: W||Season: 8-3||Pt Diff: 143|
|After talking about it all season, it seemed as though last week everything finally "clicked" for the Mountaineers. The offense seemed to come together on all cylinders with impressive catches by Wes Lyons and the expected long run from Noel Devine. The defense seemed to all but stop Pitt's offense as they held the Panthers to field goals for three of the four quarters. However, things are a little more unexpected with Rutgers. They haven't had the consistent offense of Pitt so it's harder to know how to stop them. If the Mountaineer offense can continue to build off of the momentum from the Pittsburgh victory, it will be pretty hard to stop WVU.|
|Pick: West Virginia 28-14|
|Cam Huffman||Last Week: W||Season: 8-3||Pt Diff: 162|
|I've been going with the Mountaineers all season long. There's no reason to turn back now. RU freshman quarterback Tom Savage has gotten a lot of hype, but so had Bill Stull before he brought his Panthers to Morgantown. West Virginia will be able to get pressure on Savage, and he will make enough mistakes to allow the Mountaineers to pull away. Rutgers' losing streak to WVU will continue, and five more Scarlet Knight coaches will look for new homes at the end of the season -- an annual occurence under Greg Schiano.|
|Pick: West Virginia 26-14|
|Patrick Southern||Last Week: L||Season: 8-3||Pt Diff: 177|
While talk of potential bowl destinations (please, God, let it be Jacksonville) has swirled all week, Bill Stewart has talked about keeping his team focused on the task at hand.
There is wisdom in that approach, as Rutgers has been the very definition of hot and cold this season -- how does the same team that smokes South Florida 31-0 go out and lose at Syracuse the next week?
That's what happens when you start a true freshman quarterback. Tom Savage is undoubtedly talented, but there is no substitute for experience. With top receiver Tim Brown slowed by injury in recent weeks, the WVU defense should be able to keep the clamps down on the Scarlet Knights' attack.
That will be the key to extending the Mountaineers' winning streak over RU to a staggering 15 games.
|Pick: West Virginia 27-17|
|Brian Jolliff||Last Week: W||Season: 8-3||Pt Diff: 197|
There's something burning in Morgantown and it's not couches. Is it just me or is anyone else noticing this team finally showing signs of life, emotion and attitude? It was certainly on display last Friday evening as the Mountaineers sent the kittens home with a stinging 19-16 defeat, and regardless of how the 10-15 fans up north want to spin it, that loss hurt. The confrontation at mid-field before the kickoff shows evidence of the fire and drive this team has at this point in the season.
Next up is a good Rutgers squad, one that is lacking a signature win on the season. This could be a trap game for WVU, but with the team on an emotional high right now and coming out of the Brawl relatively healthy, WVU goes to 9-3.
|Pick: West Virginia 34-24|
|Greg Hunter||Last Week: L||Season: 7-4||Pt Diff: 174|
|How does a team blow out USF (31-0) but then nine days later get blown out itself at Syracuse (31-13)? That is the rollercoaster that is Rutgers. What RU version will show up when WVU comes to town is anyone's guess, but ours is the Mountaineers come out with some fire.|
|Pick: West Virginia 27-21|