The Mountaineers look to turn things around, following a pathetic performance last week. WVU did nothing right in a loss to Syracuse, and now find themselves needing to win out for a good chance at the BCS bid. The Mountaineers face a Rutgers team that has exceeded expectations, but are also coming in off a loss. The Knights also haven't beaten WVU since 1994, so the Jersey boys will be amped and ready to go.
West Virginia: The offensive line is in for a battle. Rutgers has one of the better lines in the Big East, and will come right after Geno just like Syracuse did. It worked well for the Orange, so the Mountaineers better be ready to slow it down. The line has been inconsistent this season, but usually play better coming off a shaky performance. Look for Geno to possibly speed the tempo up to get the ball moving quicker than last week, which should help the line. The pass game may have been hurting, but the boys did block fairly well for the ground game. Dustin Garrison and Shawne Alston continue to be the stalwarts for the Mountaineers. Both are averaging over 4.5 yards per carry. Look for the two to be used a bit early on to keep the defense honest. If the find space, then Geno should have more time to look down the field towards his group of receivers.
Rutgers: Gary Nova will get the start once again for the Knights, and will certainly be looking for Mohamed Sanu. Nova has been mistake-prone, and can't afford to lose too many opportunities on Saturday. This means quick plays, and high percentage passes to Sanu should be the recipe. Sanu is having an unbelievable year with 65 catches and six touchdowns. But, someone else needs to step up. Mark Harrison and D.C. Jefferson need to start getting into the mix to help this pass attack branch out. The ground game hasn't been great either, which put even more pressure on Nova. They face a defense that allowed a heap full of points last week, so we'll see if they run some misdirection and play-action to confuse the Mountaineers.
West Virginia: No idea what to expect from a unit that completely whiffed last week. Syracuse did whatever they wanted for 60 minutes, while the Mountaineers stumbled all over the field. The defensive line got no pressure on the quarterback...again. The linebackers were out of place, and the secondary decided to really not cover anyone. It's been a confusing year for this unit...just no consistency at all. Julian Miller and Bruce Irvin have struggled to get pressure on the quarterback by themselves. Look for Jeff Casteel to bring a linebacker or two early to try to loosen up the line. The secondary has to play better. They are in for a serious battle with Sanu, and will have to keep watch of the other talented receivers. The Mountaineers will give up some yardage...it's just how they are built at this time. However, if they can get back to tightening up when it matters most, it would be highly beneficial.
Rutgers: This unit is solid. The Knights are strong up front, though are coming off a game without a sack. That can't happen against WVU if they want to be successful. Justin Francis needs to get loose against the WVU line. Like most quarterbacks, Geno makes mistakes when the pressure is on him, so Greg Schiano will bring the pain. The secondary better be up to the task. They will be in a serious battle against the Mountaineer receiving core that hasn't been stalled by anyone. The first step will be to slow down the run, something they haven't really done all year. Plus, it's hard to stack the box against an offense that spreads you out on every play. Again, they need to get to Geno to have any success.
West Virginia: The coverage has now allowed three return touchdowns. They are near last the nation in net punting, and Tyler Bitancurt even missed an extra point last game. Expect the Mountaineers to once again make some changes in the coverage for this weekend. Tavon Austin and Brad Starks should be doing most of the kick returning.
Rutgers: San San Te is a streaky kicker, who is coming off a rough game. Justin Doerner is a pretty good punter, and a good kickoff specialist. Jeremy Deering and Jordan Thomas are very dangerous kick returners, who could be in for big days. Sanu should be doing the punt returning.
First off, I can't wait to see Eric LeGrand bring the Knights out. That will be quite a scene in Piscataway this weekend. Just great to see the kid doing so well. As for the game, expect the Mountaineers to come in with a lot of energy early, following the brutal game last week. The defense may even make a big play or two early against the young offense for Rutgers. The Knights will keep this game close, and may even get to Geno themselves. If Rutgers can win the turnover battle, then it should be a close game all day. However, just too much firepower for the Mountaineers will give them the victory at the end of the day.
Prediction: 34-21 West Virginia