Fearless Picks: WVU - Florida State

The season-long race to the BGN picks contest title comes down to the final game of the season. Who will come closest in his or her final pick to nab the crown?

PICKIN' AND GRINNIN'

Matt missed the final score of the Rutgers game by a season's best one point, but Jane's four-point deviation kept her four ahead of him in the season's standings. Barring an outright miss or a big point swing, it's between those two for the title. Andy, trailing by 28 points, probably needs a different


NOSE PICKING

No one missed the outcome of the Rutgers game, so not much to pick on here.


Jane Donovan Last Week: W Season: 10-2 Pt Diff: 151
Dear Bobby,

When I was a student at WVU, you were my football coach. The 1975 Pitt game transformed me from someone who went to the games because all my friends did into a diehard fan who started really paying attention and developed a true appreciation for the game. You taught me what it meant to bleed gold and blue that day, and you taught me to hate Pitt, for which I will be eternally grateful. Thank you for what you accomplished at WVU and thanks for the memories.

Ok, enough of all that. It's been real.

Pick: West Virginia 35-21
 
Matt Keller Last Week: W Season: 10-2 Pt Diff: 155
West Virginia has executed better throughout the season in almost all phases than has Florida State, and frankly has more talent at positions like quarterback, tailback, place kicker and punter. Both teams' offensive lines have been average, and this isn't the typical FSU defensive front seven. The Seminoles do have a decent deep threat and their tight end has size. But with a freshman quarterback facing an odd defensive look in his fourth career collegiate start combined with a WVU team that is finally healthy and a Mountaineer offense that has found some ball control mix with its big play ability (albeit less of late), the only edge FSU has is an emotional one. And that usually evaporates with the initial contact. The ‘Noles finally lose a Gator Bowl, and WVU picks up win number two in Jacksonville and number five in a row.
Pick: West Virginia 27-17
 
Andy Easton Last Week: W Season: 10-2 Pt Diff: 179
The Mountaineers have been fortunate enough to win four bowl games in a row, but I don't think WVU has enough to overcome the emotional Seminoles and the loss of two defensive starters.
Pick: Florida State 34-17
 
Bill Gleason Last Week: W Season: 10-2 Pt Diff: 251
While pondering this pick as WVU travels to the potential biggest screw job in the history of WVU sports I visited family over the holidays, took some vacation and visited a couple of watering holes and got, um, watered.

Now to the game. This is Bobby Bowden's last game. This game is a made for TV event to honor Bobby Bowden. The Gator Bowl has given free tickets to all of Bobby Bowden's former players. Well, the ones who played at Florida State anyway. The only thing left is to announce that ACC officials will be working the game, although that won't happen.

Aside from the fact that WVU will be facing an entire stadium full of fans, bowl organizers, television executives and game officials who likely want to see Bowden go out a winner, the Seminoles possess the exact type of quarterback that gives the Mountaineer defense fits.

So we have the worst offensive line in two decades in Morgantown facing the worst rushing defense in the history of Bobby Bowden's tenure at FSU. The movable object versus the stoppable force.

I'm not a fan of the idea that FSU scores in the 40s like some people in the national media, but while this is a game that I think West Virginia should not only win, but win going away, I have a sneaking suspicion that the Mountaineers set a school record for penalties that cannot be confirmed by instant replay.

Heck with it.

Pick: West Virginia 34-24
 
Chris Richardson Last Week:W Season: 10-2 Pt Diff: 274
With this being the final year for the lengthy partnership between the Gator Bowl and Big East, it is only fitting that West Virginia earned the bid. The Mountaineers have made Jacksonville their home away from home over the past several years, with this being the fourth time in seven seasons they'll end their season in the Gator Bowl. Former Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey joked after the 2006 season that he was honored to be invited to WVU's final home game of the season.

Of course the bigger storyline here is that this is the final game for legendary Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, who will fittingly square off against the school he led for six seasons. With Bowden on one sideline and Stewart on the other, who cares about what happens on the field? I can't wait to hear all the great colloquialisms in the soundbytes before and after the game!

As for the actual competition, the Mountaineers look to have the upper hand in just about every area. Bowden's players will want to win one for him, but one need not look any further than Bill Stewart's track record in bowl games to find the outcome of this one. Stewart had a heavy hand in gameplanning for the 2000 Music City Bowl in addition to his two bowl wins as head coach (2008 Fiesta, 2008 Meineke Car Care). All three of those bowls have seen offensive explosions from WVU. Unfortunately for the 'Noles, that spells trouble as their lack of defense has been a big reason for the 6-6 record of 2009.

Pick: West Virginia 38-28
 
Taylor Jones Last Week: W Season: 9-3 Pt Diff: 154
The Gator Bowl offers up a very strange situation for the Mountaineers. If they win, they have robbed legendary coach Bobby Bowden of the final victory of his career. However, they obviously cannot worry about that. If the game was based solely on talent, I think the Mountaineers would win by a landslide. However, you have to factor in the high emotions that will be running during Bowden's final game. With special teams playing such a big part in WVU's final two victories of the season, I am going to go with what seems to be a magic score for West Virginia when playing in bowl games.
Pick: West Virginia 38-35
 
Cam Huffman Last Week: W Season: 9-3 Pt Diff: 171
I want to pick the Mountaineers in this one about as much as one could imagine. I always struggle picking against my alma mater, but Florida State is a team I grew up wanting to beat. My cousin was a cheerleader at FSU, and all I ever heard about from her, my aunt and my uncle was Bobby Bowden this and Bobby Bowden that. If I could have picked one team I wanted to beat, it would have been the Seminoles.

I finally had that chance in 2004, when I was on the sidelines shooting pictures for the 2004 Gator Bowl. If WVU could have pulled off the win, I would have been up close and personal as I watched my dream come true. The Mountaineers, though, couldn't quite pull it off.

So this year's Gator Bowl will mark my last chance to see a childhood dream be answered. I respect Bowden greatly and think he got a raw deal at FSU. In fact, I would probably be cheering for him if he were playing any other team. But this is WVU vs. FSU, and I can't think of a better way to start 2010 than snapping a few action shots as the Mountaineers win their fifth straight bowl game.

Unfortunately, I am not convinced it is going to happen. West Virginia just has too much going against it. The Mountaineers were a very good team at the end of the year when they were finally healthy and had the group the coaches wanted on the field. That won't be the case against the Seminoles, though, as WVU will be missing two defensive starters – including one of the best players on that side of the ball.

WVU will also be fighting an unbelievable wave of emotion, as seemingly the entire country will be on Florida State's side. Everybody not wearing old gold and blue on Jan. 1 will want to see Bowden go out with a win, and, to be honest, he probably deserves just that. I saw the way the Mountaineers – even with unbelievable disorganization within the ranks – rallied to send Don Nehlen out with a win, and I know how much emotion can mean.

These two factors alone, though, would not be enough to convince me that WVU – which I consider to be a pretty formidable team at this stage of the season – would fail in leaving Jacksonville with a win. Florida State, I'm afraid, is a much better football team than what people realize. Take away a play or two from the Miami, USF, Boston College and Georgia Tech losses, and the Seminoles could easily be 10-2 instead of 6-6. Great teams find a way to win those games, and FSU is not a great team. Its talent, though, did allow it to stay close, and that's what has me worried.

Florida State's roster is loaded with athletes that every school in the country wanted. They just haven't come together to play a complete game this season. But a month of preparation to get ready to send off one of the best coaches the game has ever seen may just be the secret formula to bring all of that talent together. If that is the case, West Virginia may be in trouble. The Seminoles may be starting a young quarterback who is prone to mistakes, but a month is a lot of time to learn, and the dual-threat quarterback is exactly what WVU had trouble defending against USF earlier this season.

So a combination of the extra emotion on the Florida State sideline, the absence of two starters in the WVU roster, the talent on the FSU depth chart and the style of play that the Seminole offense employs is enough to convince me that Bowden will end his career undefeated against his former school and ride into the sunset on the shoulders of his players. Prove me wrong Mountaineers. I'm begging you!

Pick: Florida State 33-30
 
Patrick Southern Last Week: W Season: 9-3 Pt Diff: 184
While there's no way to account for the motivational factor provided by the hype surrounding Bobby Bowden's last game, the facts are pretty clear -- West Virginia is the better team in this Gator Bowl on paper.

WVU will use a bit more power running than normal to gash the Florida State defense, which will make things easier for Jarrett Brown. The Mountaineer defense will learn the lessons it needed to from B.J. Daniels' performance against it back in October.

Ultimately, the better team will prevail.

Pick: West Virginia 34-21
 
Brian Jolliff Last Week: W Season: 9-3 Pt Diff: 210
Finally! My first truly fearless pick... because I know I have no chance of catching the leaders of the pack, the pressure is off myself. To the contrary, the pressure is on the faithful of BlueGoldNews.com. Will the Mountaineers come out with a win and silence the "negative" crowd (for a week or two, at least), with a 10 win season and bowl victory? Or do the haters get a late Christmas gift and more fuel to add to their pyre? Two academic losses in this game don't help matters, with both Scooter Berry and Nate Sowers sitting this one out. The question is, how do the replacements fill in at those positions? Recent history tells me that when a teammate is lost for a bowl game, the replacements find their time to shine, and that is exactly what will happen on Jan. 1 as WVU earns its tenth victory of the year.
Pick: West Virginia 35-31
 
Greg Hunter Last Week: W Season: 8-4 Pt Diff: 177
Motivation is nice, and the hype for Bowden will carry right up to kickoff. After that, it's about blocking and tackling, throwing, catching, running and kicking. WVU has been better in most every phase in comparison to Florida State all season, and there's no reason to believe that will change on Jan. 1.
Pick: West Virginia 34-21

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