Friday, September 30, 2011

From the Blue Lot

Each week, Chris and Dookiestyle will answer questions about the Mountaineers upcoming game…

How big are Geno’s onions, really?

Dookiestyle - I wanna say they are huge, based on last week’s record breaker. But I think we’ll really find out the answer to that question this weekend against Bowling Green. Geno had big numbers against LSU, but also had a few turnovers.

If Geno can light it up again this weekend and lead this team to a huge victory after such a high emotion loss, I think we can classify Geno’s juevos as extra large and hop on his back to a BCS Bowl Game appearance.

Its all about how he handles this weekend though.

Chris - I think the onions are rather large and impressive. Smith has shown he isn't afraid to hang the pocket, and also moves well to the outside. The guy has had impressive drives late in games, great arm strength, and true leadership ability.

Does he need to improve in the redzone? Yes, but his quip from Bruce Feldman's piece earlier this week on cbssports.com says it all. Geno Smith walks by and heads back to the offensive staff room. It's 1:30 a.m. ET. More film?"Yep," he says. "Have to."

The atmosphere at a 3:30 game against Bowling Green will be very, very different than the atmosphere for a night game against LSU. Are Mountaineer fans fair-weather fans?

Chris - Yes in our view, mainly because we want to be LSU or Ohio State, and sellout every single game. However, having 55,000 to 60,000 a game is nothing to be ashamed of. The bigger issue is the student section. When it empties at halftime, the entire atmosphere of Mountaineer Field changes.

The new policy that doesn't allow you to come back seems to have paid off. Keeping seats filled for four quarters not only helps the atmosphere, but also looks good on television. Looking good on ESPN, MASN, SNY or whatever the station may be is more important than one may think.

Dookiestyle - I don’t think they are any more fair weather than other schools. Big games, especially night games, bring more people, more out of towners and more booze to the game.

Smaller opponent...smaller crowds, less out of towners and less time to get wasted.
Also, as prices for things at WVU sporting events skyrocket...you find less and less people from around the state that can come to every game. They’d much rather spend their money on Pitt, LSU, Marshall or another Big East game than to see Bowling Green.

Will WVU win the turnover battle?

Dookiestyle - I’m going with the law of averages here. They HAVE to at some point, right? This BG team is very young, and I have to believe our defense is going to be really on their game for the rest of the season. They basically got a full season’s experience last week.

I hate to overstate that, but we won’t play another team like LSU again this year, until we get to our BCS bowl. That will do wonders for both the offense and the defense. Time to rebound. Time to learn. Time to win the rest of our games.

Chris - Yes. At some point this team needs to force and recover a fumble. They haven't done it in four games, so you would have to think they are due. Same goes with pressure on the quarterback. Only one sack through four games is a disaster. The two can seemingly go hand-in-hand, so we'll see if that occurs.

It will also help if WVU can get up early on Bowling Green. This will force the Falcons to take risks down the field, which could play into the hands of the Mountaineers.

But, defensive leaders need to step up. Bruce Irvin, Julian Miller, and Keith Tandy have to start making plays for this young team.

WVU-Bowling Green Preview

West Virginia looks to get back on stride against a tough MAC team in Bowling Green. The Mountaineers continue to improve under new coach Dana Holgorsen, but how will they react off the first loss of the season? The Falcons are no pushover. Statistically, a very proven team already this year, Bowling Green will give everything they have at the Mountaineers. Will it be enough to hang with the high-flying West Virginia?

Offense:

West Virginia: The unit continues to make big strides. Geno Smith and the boys ended up gaining more than 500 yards against LSU. The team was 3-for-3 in the redzone, and even ran the ball well against the Tigers. As good as the skilled positional players were, the offensive line was the real story. The boys up front kept Geno on his feet the entire game, and also push around the big boys from Baton Rouge a little bit. Stedman Bailey, Tavon Austin, and Ivan McCartney continue to create havoc for the secondary, and Tyler Urban may be the new go-to in the redzone. Dustin Garrison may have emerged as the number one running back after his performance last week. Tempo has improved as well. The biggest problem for this unit is the mistakes. The team has to hold onto the football, and just play cleaner.

Bowling Green: The balanced offense has had a lot of success early on. Matt Schilz is one of the more efficient quarterbacks in the nation, having already thrown 14 touchdowns. His top targets, Kamar Jorden and Eugene Cooper will be tough covers for the WVU corners. Anthon Samuel has nearly 500 yards on the ground already, with a very impressive 7.0 average per-carry. The Mountaineers better have learned how to tackle if they want to slow this offense down. The line is good, but has been suseptable to the sack this year, allowing 11 in four games. The Falcons are also nearly 50% on third downs. Efficiency is the word.

Defense:

West Virginia: No pressure and no technique continue to haunt this unit. It's not a bad group at all. In fact, there's a lot of talent, including guys (Bruce Irvin, Julian Miller, Keith Tandy) who will play at the next level. However, this "unit" has struggled to play as one. In fact, it looks more like three units playing on the same field. That shoudn't come as a big surprise. This is a young group, which had many new parts coming in. Overall, they has been pretty good. They didn't give up a touchdown in the first two games, but struggled the last few weeks. The effort has been there, the technique has not. The line can't get a puss rush, the linebackers are not wrapping up, and the secondary look lost at times. They go up against another good offense on Saturday, so the spotlight will certainly be on.

Defense: The Falcons are allowing less than 20 points per game. This is one of the better numbers in the nation. Now, it's not against stellar opponents, but the bottomline is they're getting the job done. The line has done well to keep teams honest. The Falcons have consistently gotten to the opposing quarterback, and have done well against the run. That pressure has relieved a young linebacking unit. The secondary has done well, but haven't faced a passing attack like West Virginia's. It will be interesting to see how aggressive the Falcons play early against the West Virginia offense.

Special Teams:

West Virginia: Just a train wreck so far. Yes, Tyler Bitancurt has been fine kicking, and Tavon is a good return man. But everything else needs major work. Net punting is dead last in the country, tackling on coverage is shambolic, and blocking on returns isn't much better. Dana Holgorsen talked about this being potentially the major issue, and changes may be made before tomorrow's game. Mistakes from this unit can be a death sentence.

Bowling Green: The kicking game is strong. All averages are fine, including punter Brian Schmiedebusch's 49 per-kick. The return game has been fine, nothing huge. Look for Steven Dunlap to get most of the opportunities. WVU will have to not make any of these kids household names.

Overall: West Virginia is going to score. So, will the Mountaineer defense step up? Bowling Green will have to take risks to stay in this game, so look for WVU to play aggressivley to force mistakes...something that has eluded this defense so far. Expect a close game early, but just too much Geno and company will ultimately make the difference. Bowling Green will need the perfect game, which won't be the case. The Mountaineers make it big late.

Prediction: 49-24 West Virginia

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Big East Preview, Week 5

Conference play opens up for the first time this year for the Big East. It's highlighted by another big Thursday night game that could push South Florida even closer to the Top-10. Or can Pittsburgh finally get their season rolling? On to the picks...

Last Week: 6-1
Overall: 24-6

Bye Week: None

Marshall at Louisville: The Cardinals are coming off a bye, with a whole lot of confidence. Louisville handled some adveristy in the last game, and took down not-so mighty rival, Kentucky. Young quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater played solidly after starter Will Stein went down. Stein may be out again this week, so look for Bridgewater and the running game to attack the Herd as much as possible. Marshall has been completely run over the last few weeks, so the Cards should have success. If the Herd stack the box, look for Bridgewater (or Stein) to go down the field. DeVante Parker and the boys should be able to beat Marhsall's secondary at will. Louisville has struggled to finish drives this season, but this is the kind of game that could change that. Dominique Brown being under center at times could also be another factor in finding more consistency in the redzone. It might stay close early, but the Herd just aren't scary enough to hang around.

Prediction: 29-13 Louisville

Cincinnati at Miami(OH): The Bearcats go on the road to take on a MAC opponent. It's been a strange year so far for Miami. Three games that could have gone either way have them as a scary 0-3 team. Have the Redhawks faced an offense like Cincinnati? Yes and no. They did play Missouri in week 1 and held them to 17 points. However, it was the first game of the year, when teams tend to be susceptible. The Bearcats' offense is clicking on all cylinders, and is coming off a dismantling of NC State. Cincinnati is now 4th in the nation in scoring, and shouldn't have too much trouble moving the ball this weekend. The only thing that could slow down the train is mistakes. The Redhawks will have to play opportunistic, which certainly could backfire...and probably will. This is just a solid matchup for Cincy. Expect another comfortable.

Prediction: 38-17 Cincinnati

Bowling Green at West Virginia: The Mountaineers fought LSU hard last week, but turnovers and tackling would be their downfall. WVU now faces a solid offensive team in Bowling Green, and better be ready defensively. Geno Smith and company should be able to move the ball on the Falcons, and look for the rushing attack to have their first big game. But can Bowling Green keep it close? Probably early on, but too much Geno will seperate the two in the second half. Full preview coming tomorrow.

Prediction: 49-24 West Virginia

Western Michigan at Connecticut: The Huskies better be ready, and better be disciplined this weekend. The Broncos are certainly no pushover, and nearly took down an undefeated Illinois last week. The Huskies struggled to score against Buffalo. So, it's no surprise that UConn is only a 3-point favorite. Connecticut's defense will make it difficult for WMU to move the ball. UConn has done well staying in games due limiting opposing teams opportunities. The Husky defense is ranked 13th in points against. Meanwhile, the Broncos have had their own struggles offensively, especially holding onto the football. Look for UConn to play an aggressive style to try and force mistakes. This will probably be the Huskies' saving grace. Until the offense gets more consistent play, primarily at the quarterback position, UConn has rely on the solid defense. This one will be close all day, with the Huskies holding on late.

Prediction: 17-14 Connecticut

Rutgers at Syracuse: I honestly have no idea what to make of Syracuse. The Orange have played four games, and practically underachieved in all of them. However, a 3-1 record is solid. Sure, two of those games were won in overtime, and the other was a tight game against Rhode Island, but the team is winning. Meanwhile, Rutgers is coming off a nice win over Ohio, and continue to get good play from Chas Dodd, and his dynamic receivers. The Knights should have success moving the ball against the banged up defense of Syracuse. However, the Orange have done a pretty good job in the redzone, so Dodd will have to be more patient than he has been in those tight situations. Rutgers has struggled to run the ball so Syracuse can be more cognizant of the pass throughout. However, the same goes on the other side of the ball. Rutgers can key on the pass until Syracuse can prove they can pound the rock. And, with a few injuries to deal with this week don't expect the Orange to bust out Saturday. So, does this game come down to Dodd v Ryan Nassib? Possibly. Both have performed well, limiting the big mistakes. Expect Nassib to play a bit better, considering he'll have the home field advantage, and already has a step on maturity. Should be a fun game to watch, back and forth all the way. A few big plays for the Orange in the second half will be the difference in this one.

Prediction: 31-27 Syracuse

Game of the Week: (16) South Florida at Pittsburgh: The Bulls have just been killing people since beating Notre Dame. The Panthers have lost two straight, including one to Notre Dame. Though, Pitt did look better...kind of. While the defensee kept the Panthers in the game, Todd Graham's offense continues to struggle to get off the ground. As talented as Ray Graham is, the running back is starting to dance a little too much. Meanwhile, Tino Sunseri continues to look timid behind the center, and needs a breakout game to get going. Will it happen tonight? Maybe. The Bulls' defense hasn't been lockdown, but haven't had to be. With giant leads in the majority of their games, USF has essentially breezed through second halves. The Bulls will certainly stack the box and make Sunseri prove he is a threat. A quarterback who hasn't struggled with complacency is B.J. Daniels. The junior is having an outstanding start to the season, with nine total touchdowns and only one INT. The running game has been solid too, with Darrell Scott averaging nearly seven yards a carry. Look for the balanced attack to just be too much for the Panthers' defense. It's a Thursday night game in Pittsburgh, which could help, but if Sunseri doesn't have a dynamic game it's hard to see the Panthers winning this game.

Prediction: 27-17 USF

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Steve Slaton now a Dolphin

A day after being released by the Houston Texans, Steve Slaton has been claimed by the Miami Dolphins. Slaton will join a backfield that includes rookie running back Daniel Thomas, classic underachiever Reggie Bush, and some guy named Lex Hilliard.

Slaton was a 1,000-yard rusher his rookie year, but due to a case of Fumbilitis and a few bad injuries, he found himself buried on the depth cart in Houston. And, after a good start for Ben Tate, it was evident that Slaton was expendable.

It will be interesting to see what kind of opportunity Slaton gets in Miami. It seems that he could be a pretty solid 3rd down back in the NFL. And, with Reggie Bush struggling to get going, maybe Slaton will get a chance to prove his worth.

Big East Power Rankings, Week 4

1. South Florida (4-0): The Bulls continue to cruise, after dismantling UTEP. Next Step...Thursday night at Pittsburgh.

2. West Virginia (3-1): Hung around with LSU for three quarters, then fell apart. Next Step...avoiding a letdown against Bowling Green.

3. Cincinnati (3-1): A solid statement win last week on national television over NC State. Next Step...On the road at Miami...no, not that one.

4. Louisville (2-1): Probably spent the bye week still celebrating the win over rival Kentucky. Next Step...Hosting Marshall.

5. Syracuse (3-1): Literally stole a win from Toledo, but that's on the refs not Cuse. Next Step...Still looking for a good four quarter performance against Rutgers.

6. Pittsburgh (2-2): Could be lower, but given the benefit of the doubt with the tough schedule. Next Step...Tough Thursday night battle against USF.

7. Rutgers (2-1): Nice win over Ohio to ignite some momentum. Next Step...Looking to keep that momentum going against Syracuse.

8. Connecticut (2-2): Tough win over Buffalo, but a win is a win. Next Step...Hosting a pretty tough Western Michigan.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Steve Slaton Waived

The Houston Texans waived Steve Slaton today, ending an up-and down tenure in the Lone Star State. Slaton rushed for over a 1,200 yards in his rookie year, and seemed poised to be the next breakout star. However, a slow start the following year (which included a fumbling issue) and a season-ending injury derailed his career.

He came back, but found himself out of favor with the Gary Kubiak, and eventually ended up as the fourth string running back to start this season. He now finds himself without a job.

Slaton certainly still has talent, but will he get an opportunity. And if he does, will he take advantage of it? The life span of an NFL career is short, and even shorter for a running back.

A Thin Line Between Love and Hate - WVU’s All Gold Uniforms

By, Dookiestyle

Mountaineer football is very steeped in tradition. But things were changing in the 00’s. New coaches. New offensive philosophies. WVU was back in the national mix.

In 2007, Steve Slaton showed up in Playboy magazine rocking an all gold WVU strip in their preseason All-American college football issue.

Blue helmet. All gold, head to toe. It WAS interesting. It was different. The WVU football program was on “jet.”

However, I’ve always maintained that these uniforms are an eyesore.

Up to that point, WVU had maintained a pretty standard uniform, almost always wearing a blue top with gold pants. You knew WVU was playing at home. Not only was it pretty much tradition, but it could even be called a whole state’s identity.

I just happen to find the all gold uni’s ugly.

Upon hearing the news that WVU would be sporting the all golds, I groaned. Why. We’re playing a team with the same gold in their uniform. Gold helmets to be exact, and gold pants. That’s a lot of gold on the field at one time.

I get it. When we have a “Gold Rush,” everyone in the stands wears gold. The team wears gold. It looks great on TV, and great for recruiting.

HISTORY OF THE ALL GOLDS (I researched this by looking up photos from every game played. I could have missed some, but I feel pretty accurate about this.)

2007
WVU beats Mississippi St.
WVU beats Louisville

2009
WVU beats Colorado

2010
WVU beats South Florida.

As much as I hate them, and will continue to hate them, you can’t argue with the record. Surely that played a part in the decision to wear them.

So now we’re 4-1 in the all golds. I can roll with it. Just don’t overuse it.

And wear gold to every Mountaineer Game!

UPDATE:

Editors Note: I knew my research would be flawed. Thanks to Snider for pointing it out.

2007
WVU beats Louisville
WVU loses to Pitt

2009
WVU beats Colorado

2010
WVU beats South Florida.

As much as I hate them, and will continue to hate them, they do have a winning record. Surely that played a part in the decision to wear them. But its important to note that we had the biggest loss in our program's history wearing the golds.

Former Mountaineers in the NFL, Week 3

Anthony Becht, TE, Chiefs: Did play for the Chiefs in week 3, though didn't register any stats in the loss to the Chargers.

Pat McAfee, P, Colts: Another solid performance, averaging 44 yards a punt that includes three inside the 20.

Corey McIntyre, FB, Bills: Started at fullback and registered one tackle in a win over the Patriots.

Ryan Mundy, FS, Steelers: Finished with two tackles in the win over the Indianapolis Colts.

Chris Neild, NT, Redskins: Registered two tackles in Washington's first loss of the season.

Robert Sands, FS, Bengals: Inactive once again this week. Has yet to dress for Cincinnati this year.

Owen Schmitt, FB, Eagles: The big man got some action in week 3, including six yards on four carries. However, he was stuffed on the goal-line. Also had one catch for 13 yards.

Steve Slaton, RB, Texans: Due to injuries, Slaton had a few carries on Sunday. He finished with eight yards on four carries.

Injuries:

PacMan Jones: PUP List

Brandon Hogan: Pup List

J.T. Thomas: Injured Reserve

Monday, September 26, 2011

its gameweek! week 5 primer

Matchup: West Virginia v Bowling Green

When: Saturday, 3:30p, Big East Network

Line: WVU -20.5

West Virginia Players to Watch:
Geno Smith, QB: 1471 yards, 9 TD, 3 INT
Tavon Austin, WR: 31 rec, 423 yards, 1 TD, 1 return TD
Stedman Bailey, WR: 23 rec, 344 yards, 3 TD
Ivan McCartney, WR: 23 rec, 270 yards, 2 TD
Darwin Cook, S: 28 total tackles, 1 INT, 1 PD

Bowling Green Players to Watch:
Matt Schilz, QB: 1169 yards, 14 TD, 4 INT
Anthon Samuel, RB: 428 rush yards, 3 TD
Eugene Cooper, WR: 21 rec, 374 yards, 6 TD
Kamar Jordan, WR: 26 rec, 266 yards, 4 TD

Storylines:

How will WVU respond after the LSU loss? The first loss for the Mountaineers hopefully doesn't become a letdown. Dana Holrosen will certainly be rallying his boys quickly to get ready for a talented Bowling Green team. In fact, it might be better to have the conference talk muted and ESPN long gone. Time to get back to the basics of football, and football only.

Limiting mistakes has to be a focus this week. Too many eventually were the downfall last week. This team needs to limit turnovers and learn how to tackle. Both seem to come from a lack of focus, somthing the coaches are probably all over. This team will win a lot of games if they can just get more discpline.

Special Teams are a disaster...again. It's like a broken record. Why does this team struggle with covereage every year? Through four games, WVU has already allowed a heap of yardage and two touchdowns. Top add insult to injury, the team is also dead last in net punting. This needs to turn around, and turn around quickly.

Will this be the week where the running game busts out? Seems to be a good possibility. Dustin Garrison was solid in the second half against LSU, and now teams have to respect the pass. If the Mountaineers can get the ground game up to par, this offense may never slow down.

WVU-LSU Reaction

Well, it was a good effort, but too many mistakes ultimately doomed the Mountaineers. WVU did prove quite a bit though. There's no doubt that this offense is coming together. However, tackling and special teams must improve if this Mountaineer team has BCS hopes.

Most Valuable: Offensive Line. The much beleaguered group was outstanding. Geno Smith had ample time to throw all night long, and the ground game found some holes. WVU ended up putting over 500 yards on arguably the country's best defense. The major reason was the big boys up front. If this continues, imagine what the Mountaineers may do against inferior defenses.


Least Valuable: Special Teams. Nothing kills a team like an entire unit dropping the ball. Enter WVU's Special Teams...over the last six years. The coverage was dreadful, and ended up costing the Mountaineers dearly. The 99-yard kick return TD in the 3rd quarter proved to be the back breaker, as WVU failed to right the ship after. To make matters worse, the Mountaineers have the worst net punting in America.


Most Surprising: 533 yards. How good can this offense be if WVU can drop 533 yards on LSU's defense? Geno Smith was able to find open wideouts consistently, and the rushing attack had success in the second half. Now, if the Mountaineers can just hold onto the bal...


Least Surprising: Mistakes. Wish I could say I was surprised, but this WVU team is young, and haven't played in a lot of nationally televised night games. Turnovers, poor tackling, poor punting all plagued the Mountaineers, and ultimately buried them. However, those mistakes can be fixed.


Play of the Game: Morris Clayborne's 99 yard kickoff return. Just when it looked like WVU had a chance to steal the all momentum, Clayborne broke the Mountaineer spirit with the return. Poor tackling and outstanding ability for Clayborne were a recipe for disaster.

Grades:


Quarterback: Geno played well. Sure, he threw a few picks, and had a fumble. But, he also threw for over 460 yards against arguably the best secondary in the nation. Geno's completion percentage does need to improve, but again, it was LSU.
Grade: B


Running Back: The crew did well, and Dustin Garrison may have won the starting job. The youngster has looked the best so far hitting the hole. Shawne Alston once again seems to be pretty good in a short yardage roll. The group was strong in blocking too.
Grade: B+


Wideout: A few drops and a fumble drop the grade down a touch, but a great job finding space and yards after the catch. This group will be very difficult to defend moving ahead.
Grade: B

Offensive line: Just an outstanding day for the group, Yes, there were a few penalties called, but the group was the reason WVU was able to go for over 500 yards of total offense. Look for this group to continue to shine.
Grade: A-

Defensive line: Still no pressure on the quarterback, and struggled late to stop the rush. Need to get more consistent.
Grade: C

Linebacker: Made plays early, but failed to slow the rush down when the team needed it. Also need to learn how to tackle.
Grade: C-

Secondary: Dropped a crucial interception early, and couldn't stop falling for playaction. Was bailed out by a dropped touchdown to start the second half.
Grade: D+

Special Teams: Miserable performance. No yardage gained, coverage was terrible, tackling was even worse, and the punting game is a disaster. This group needs fixing soon.
Grade: D-

Coaching: Mixed bag. Dana Holgorsen had a good game plan, and the turnovers you can put on him. Jeff Casteel was beaten all night. Game plan and adjustments just didn't add up. The defense looked out of place on more than one occasion. Special Teams need help soon.
Grade: C+

Friday, September 23, 2011

West Virginia-LSU Preview

There is no measuring how important this game is for West Virginia. A primetime game on ABC, with the GameDay crew in Morgantown, and the idea that this could be a quasi-audition for the SEC. Who knows if that's the case, but beating the second ranked Tigers on national television couldn't hurt. So, what are the chances WVU can win? Better than most think. An explosive offense, a defense that can make some plays, and a night crowd should help WVU keep this one close.

Offense:

West Virginia: The offense is improving by the week. However, the Mountaineers are yet to put four quarters together. Geno Smith's numbers are ridiculous so far, with over 1,000 yards passing, seven touchdowns, and just one pick(which wasn't his fault). However, his execution in the redzone must get better. The fade pattern has been his nemesis this season, so will see if Dana Holgorsen switches up the play-calling. The rushing game has gotten better. Shawne Alston was a nice addition last week, bringing experience and toughness in short yardage. The youngsters have also looked better hitting the hole. The offensive line was huge against Maryland, opening holes and allowing Geno plenty of time to throw. However, the second half wasn't as strong. This unit will be in a major battle against the LSU front. The Mountaineers will have little chance if the line can't keep Geno Smith from getting killed. Look for WVU to run some quick hitters and draw plays early to potentially slow LSU down.

LSU: Ground control and an efficient passing game has been the recipe for success. Expect a heavy dose of Spencer Ware and Michael Ford throughout the game. The two have combined for nearly 500 yards so far, with an average just under 5.0. A lot of the praise has to go to the offensive line. This unit is one of the best in the SEC, so WVU will have to try some creative stunts to break them down. If the Mountaineers tire out, the LSU line will blow them over late in the game to allow the Tigers to control possession. The great lines has also allowed Jarrett Lee to be very efficient this season. Lee isn't going to beat you with his arm, but he also hasn't been killing his team. However, the Tigers have done a nice job in making sure Lee hasn't been needed to make a lot of big plays, so it's easy to limit the mistakes. Will WVU stack the box? They could, but that leaves single coverage on talented receivers, Russell Shepard and Rueben Randle.

Defense:

West Virginia: Mixed results last week for this unit. While the secondary played well, the front six was blown off the line and out of position way too much. The line still isn't getting pressure on the quarterback, and the linebacking play is a bit inconsistent. The unit isn't facing a dynamic offense, so look for Jeff Casteel to dial up blitzes, especially on 3rd and long. The front six will also be facing a very strong offensive line, so look for WVU to try and use speed to their advantage. The secondary will have to deal with some talented wideouts, but could find an opportunity or two against an unproven quarterback. WVU will need to stop the run plain and simple, to give their offense as many opportunities as possible.

LSU: Got younger from last year, but still one of the best groups in the nation. Allowing just 12 points a game, this defense has already slowed down Oregon and Mississippi State. There are playmakers at every position, especially in the secondary. Morris Claiborne, Tyrann Mathiue and company will map it very hard for the WVU receivers to find any space. The front seven will also look to completely destroy the run. Considering WVU has struggled rushing the ball this season, it might not be that difficult. The Tigers will probably face may quick plays, and the WVU's uptempo style between plays will keep them honest.

Special Teams:

West Virginia: Kicker, Tyler Bitancurt has re-found his mojo from freshman year, going 7-8 to start the season. The coverage continues to improve as well, since looking terrible against Marshall. Tavon Austin is a threat every time he touches the ball, though had a little trouble holding handling the football last week. Austin will be very important in this game. WVU may be in a serious field position battle. If that's the case, then look for Austin to potentially be a difference maker.

LSU: Drew Alleman has only missed one attempt so far, and is a good weapon from deep. The Tigers have used two punters this season, both have been fine. Morris Claiborne is a threat to house it every time he has the ball. Let us not forget that last year the Tigers scored on a punt return touchdown against WVU.

Overall:

It's should be a great game. West Virginia does have a good chance to win this game. A combination of mistake-free offense and solid defense will keep this game close all night. Look for the Mountaineers to put Lee into a few 3rd and longs that he can't convert. This should open the door for Geno Smith and company. Three touchdowns will probably be enough for the Mountaineers to seal the deal. Throw a field goal on top of that, and WVU will come away 4-0.

Prediction: 24-21 West Virginia

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Big East Preview, Week 4

An interesting week of games for the Big East, as we get deeper into the season. A few statement matchups mixed in with must-wins should keep the entertainment level up. Can a true statement be made by WVU beating LSU? Or is it the same old story for the besieged conference? To the picks…

Last Week: 6-1

Overall: 18-5

Bye Week: Louisville

Connecticut at Buffalo: Normally this would be a walk in the park for a Big East team, but who knows with this Husky team? UConn has blown two fourth quarter leads in successive weeks, and now stand under .500. The offense still can't finish drives, and the defense is struggling to come up with a big play. Fortunately, the Huskies take on a team with similar issues. Like UConn, Buffalo is still looking for a win over an FBS opponent. The Bulls have been competitive at times, but mistakes continue to derail them. Buffalo's defense has actually played pretty well, and may make it difficult for the Huskies to move the ball, especially if the Bulls stack the box. Look for a closer-than expected game. UConn is going to have to step-up and work for this win, which will happen. The Huskies rushing attack will wear that defense down late.

Prediction: 31-21 Connecticut

Ohio at Rutgers: The Knights come off a bye week searching for consistency on offense. The Jersey boys should be 2-0, but couldn't do anything with many opportunities handed to them by UNC. Balance has been an issue, so look for Rutgers to try to establish it early against a tough Ohio team. The Bobcats come in undefeated, and have one of the best rushing attacks in the nation three weeks in. The Knights will have to stack the box as much as possible, and see if Terry Tettleton can beat them through the air. The Knights' defense has been opportunistic this season so don't be surprised if Greg Schiano has them play aggressively. If the defense does create opportunities for the offense, Chas Dodd better play better. He's going to be going up against a pretty good defense and needs to prove he can play at this level. Look for Rutgers to try to use the talented wideouts as much as possible, even at the QB position if need be. A close game will go Rutgers way late, forcing a big turnover and converting it.

Prediction: 24-20 Rutgers

UTEP at (17) South Florida: The Bulls just continue to roll through the schedule, and it should continue this Saturday. South Florida faces a schizophrenic UTEP team that may be in for a long night. The Miners offense is stagnant, only averaging 21 points a game. Meanwhile, the defense is coming off a good week, but also allowed 24 points to Stony Brook. Look for B.J. Daniels to attack early, and just gain confidence throughout the entire game. The two-headed running attack of Darrell Scott and Demetrius Murray will keep the Miners' defense guess all night as well. When the dust settles, the Bulls will be 4-0, and ready to move in to the Top-15.

Prediction: 41-17 South Florida

Notre Dame at Pittsburgh: Todd Graham is not off to the start he expected. His pass defense is second to last in the nation, and his quarterback has no confidence. Not a good combination going into Notre Dame week. Yes, the Irish are only 1-2, but seem to be in much better shape than the Panthers. Look for Notre Dame to blitz all night long. Tino Sunseri isn't going to feel comfortable. Pitt will need Ray Graham to find daylight, and a lot of it. The speedy running back will be Pitt's only chance to keep the Panthers close. However, it may not matter. If Tommy Rees has time to throw, he will be find open receivers all day long. The Panther's secondary is just in shambles at this point. Look for Brian Kelly to spread his team out and throw it all over the lot. Pitt may keep it close, because Notre Dame is good for three turnovers, but unless the defense wakes up the Irish will pull away late.

Prediction: 34-23 Notre Dame

Toledo at Syracuse: The Orange come back home to a pretty solid opponent. The Toledo Rockets have played well this season, and are looking to get back to winning ways following tough losses to Ohio State and Boise State. Syracuse better not take it lightly or it could be a long night in the dome. The Orange need to find a ground game to help win the possession battle. At the very least the receivers need to hold on to the ball on third down. Toledo can give up big chunks of yards, so look for Ryan Nassib to be looking down the field early. It will be much easier if the Orange can set up the play-action. The Rockets balanced attack could disrupt any sort of rhythm Syracuse may get on offense, so it will be very important for the defense to create havoc. The Orange are a better football team, but this game will simply come down to execution. Syracuse will win if they play smart, mistake-free football.

Prediction: 29-24 Syracuse

NC State at Cincinnati: This is a must win for the Bearcats. A Thursday night showcase game against the conference that continues to take apart the Big East. More importantly, Cincinnati needs to prove to themselves that they can beat a legit team. There’s no doubt the ‘Cats can score, but can the defense stop a pretty good NC State offense? Cincinnati needs to play aggressively, back to the opportunistic style that worked well under Brian Kelly. The Wolfpack have been better offensively than some may have though after losing Russell Wilson. Mike Glennon has been efficient, and should have success tonight. This will be another close game, and may end up a track meet. The ‘Pack will struggle to slow the balanced Cincy attack. Look for the Bearcats’ defense to make a big play or two in the second half to help differentiate the two. Take the over.

Prediction: 38-31 Cincinnati

Game of the Week: (2) LSU at (16) West Virginia: Three touchdowns. If the Mountaineers can score three touchdowns, then it may be a wild Saturday night. The Tigers’ offense will use ball control and the stellar defense will limit the high-flying Dana Holgorsen attack. So, will the Mountaineers have enough to pull off the upset? Let’s just say on Sunday morning Geno Smith will be a household name. Full preview tomorrow.

Prediction: 24-21 West Virginia

Tales from Mountaineer Field – October 29, 1988

By, Dookiestyle

During the 1988 season, my parents purchased two season tickets for me and my brother. At the time, I was 13 and my brother is 12. And we had season tickets to Mountaineer football. Without the parents.

Mountaineer Field was that kind of place. You were surrounded with 55,000 family members that would look after you and make sure you were safe. I don’t think many parents these days would let their 13 and 12 year old go to a sporting event by themselves. Our tickets were on the student side of the stadium, on the lower level on the 15 yard line of the South End Zone. Back when the scoreboard was in front of the hospital and there was grass in the corners.

During the first two games against Bowling Green and Cal-State Fullerton, we started to get to know the people sitting around us. Specifically, Bob, Steve and Larry.

We sat in front of Bob, Steve and Larry. All close friends from college and in their early thirties, they participated in the behavior that most Mountie fans did. They’d be somewhat drunk when they came in, they always had alcohol, and they never missed the band. Throughout the season, those three guys were me and my brother’s buddies. They watched over us and made sure no one gave us a hard time.

The most memorable moment, however, came on October 29, 1988.

WVU had not had a good record against Penn State over the years, but this year promised to be different. WVU was looking at going undefeated and playing for a national title, with Penn State being the only feasible roadblock toward that goal. I remember never seeing so many people in my life. There were more than 66,000 screaming fans in the stadium. Everyone was jacked up. But none moreso than the Mountaineers. And Major Harris.

The Mountaineers hung 51 points on Penn State that day, at that time the most points scored against a Joe Paterno coached PSU team. Nearing the end of the game, the crowd couldn’t contain themselves, and started spilling out on to the field before the game was over. I had always wanted to be a part of being on the field…tearing down the goal posts…celebrating arguably the biggest Mountaineer win of all time.

I moved towards the wall, when Bob put a hand on my shoulder and told me not to go. He said it was wrong what was happening, and that the fans should have more respect than that.

I didn’t go onto the field. Nor have I ever. But I always remember that day as the day I learned a key quality of being a Mountaineer – respect.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Oliver Luck's Statement on Conference Situation

West Virginia Athletic Director, Oliver Luck releasesd a statement regarding the Big East meeting last night.

The Statement...
"President Clements and I represented West Virginia University at last night's BIG EAST meeting in New York. The group concluded the meeting with a strategy to recruit top level BCS-caliber institutions that match the league's strong athletic and academic histories and traditions.

"As I stated before, WVU is an excellent flagship, land-grant University, with national-caliber athletic and academic programs. We are, and will remain, a national player in college athletics.

"The conference office will coordinate any further discussion on this issue."
Umm, short and sweet. Where does this lead us? Good question. I guess we can ask the conference office.

Deep Thoughts, WVU-Style

Yes, there is still a game this weekend, and it happens to be a big one. Conference uncertainty will not stop the LSU Tigers from invading Morgantown. I actually kind of like the uncertainty. I get the feeling that Dana Holgorsen can use it to his advantage. Couldn't you see Holgs rolling out the old "The SEC doesn't think your good enough" line to fire the boys up? There is no doubt that WVU will be up to play.

Who will be the celebrity picker on ESPN GameDay? The smart money is on Bobby Huggins. Nothing would be better than Huggs taking some nice shots at Herby and Corso. Plus, he gets it, and represents WVU well. Next in line might be Jerry West or Don Nehlen. Both would also represent well, especially the NBA logo. The man does have a statue. Other potentials could be Pat White, Darryl Talley, maybe even Marc Bulger. However, if Bill Stewart is the choice, well then I might just break my television.

Will three touchdowns win this game? Possibly. LSU has an average offense, which focusses on the ground game. Yes, the Tiger can eat up a clock, and are very efficient in the redzone, but it's not an offense that scares opponents. Which means WVU better hold onto the football. The Tigers are ready to pounce on any mistake WVU may make to better their chance of getting points on the board. An LSU blowout could be a final score of 23-10. It's just really hard to get a gauge of how many points WVU may need. I do believe that three touchdown drives will put a lot of pressure of the number 2 team in the land.

The atmosphere should be amazing. I can't wait to see Morgantown be highlighted all day on ESPN. I just hope our students and fans represent the old gold and blue to the best of their ability.




WVU to the Big 12? More of a reality than we think?

WVU, which allegedly pledged its allegiance to the Big East will certainly still be looking out for its own interests. And, if the Big East's grand plan is to bring in the service academies, WVU has to continue looking outside of the conference.

One of those conferences may be the Big 12. The conference that was left for dead just a few days ago, may have been resurrected with the news that the key players are looking to stay and reform the league. With Texas A&M going to the SEC and maybe Missouri too, plus Nebraska and Colorado already gone, the Big 12 has holes to fill. BYU seems to be the priority, as it should be. The Cougars have a national following, and very good money tie-ins. The thinking is BYU will join if Texas and Oklahoma stay. Now that it the big boys are going to reportedly stay, pencil the Cougars in.

What about the other openings? Enter Andy Katz' article from last week. This story originally went under the radar due to the fact that it looked like the Big 12 was dead, and the Big East still had Syracuse and Pittsburgh.

Katz writes...

Big 12 athletic directors were given a list of schools to contact a few weeks ago once it became clear that Texas A&M would be departing the conference for membership in the SEC.

Arkansas and BYU were contacted but then, according to multiple sources, the athletic directors who were given the instructions did not reach out to the other three schools on the list -- Pittsburgh, Louisville and West Virginia of the Big East -- because Oklahoma president David Boren made comments that the Sooners were unsettled in their situation as a member of the Big 12 and were exploring their options.

Katz has continued to give this view all morning on SportsCenter. Arkansas isn't going anywhere. As mentioned before, BYU is looking good to join. Pittsburgh is ACC-bound, so that leaves Louisville and West Virginia as potential targets for the Big 12 to expand back up...at leads according to Katz.

One would imagine the Big 12 wants to get back to the actual "12", and establish that it will remain one of the premier conferences in the country. So, could both WVU and Louisville split from the Big East? Why not. Both schools to have to worry about the future Big East football, especially when the service academies are the alleged target to save the league. Both would also fit in well competitively with the Big 12. In fact, the schools would boost the conference as a basketball power. If this were to happen, the conference could also split into two new divisions.

Division One: WVU, Louisville, Missouri(or new team), Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State

Division Two: Baylor, BYU, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas Tech

Two very competitive divisions would also allow the conference to have a legit championship game. And of course, WVU and Louisville would not have to worry about losing the AQ status, since the two would be attached to Texas and Oklahoma.

So, as we debate, moan, and groan about the SEC and the Big East, maybe it's time to start paying more attention south-westward. The Big 12 could be the best fit for WVU.