The Mountaineers return home for the first time in three weeks to face rival, Louisville. WVU does control their own destiny, and it continues with what should be a solid chess match early on against a stingy Cardinal defense.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers are coming off a game that showed they have the ability to be balanced. The team rushed for nearly 200 yards, while Geno threw for over 200. Granted, it was a snowstorm, but the Mountaineers have now shown a few times that you can run the football out of this scheme. Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin continue to be huge matchup problems for secondaries. Bailey is on pace to break the WVU single season record for yardage, and Dana Holgorsen is now looking for ways to get Austin the football more consistently. The big story will certainly be the offensive line. Louisville has a very good defense, and will be looking to blow up the WVU bigs. The Mountaineer line will have to play big for 60 mins.
Louisville: Freshman, Teddy Bridgewater leads the way for a Cardinals' offense that is getting stronger by the week. Bridgewater is coming off his most efficient game, and it was against a pretty good defense in Syracuse. He has some solid receivers to throw to as well. Michaelee Harris, Josh Chichester, and Eli Rogers will tough matchups for the WVU backers and secondary. A plethora of different running backs may get a chance to star as well. There is no doubt that Louisville will want to keep the ball away from WVU as much as possible.
West Virginia: The Mountaineers are truly inconsistent. One minute the unit looks incredibly efficient. The next, well, they look dreadful. Bruce Irvin just hasn't been able to find space to get going. However, it was nice to see the line get going in the second half last week. The boys up front still need to do a better job in clogger the rush lanes, and trying to get to the quarterback. Bridgewater will pose a tough matchup, considering his athleticism. As for the linebackers, they did better in coverage last week, but are still not where they need to be. Look for that group to be used in some rushing, but have to keep an eye on Chichester. The secondary may see changes. Expect to see Broderick Jenkins on the field even more this week. The secondary better be ready for the deep ball, because Louisville will certainly be taking some shots.
Louisville: This unit is the best in the conference, and really one of the best in the nation. They are holding opponents under 100 yards rushing a week, and under 17 points a game. The front seven has done a nice job in creating pressure. Dexter Hayman leads the way, and will more or less be seen all over the field. The Cards have about four legitimate quaterback killers, so the WVU line will be in for a long day. The Mountaineers will have to keep a running back home to help block. The secondary will be in for a tough day. Hakeem Smith and the boys will look to play physically against the talented WVU wideouts. The Cardinals need to slow down the passing game to have any chance in beating the Mountaineers.
West Virginia: Tyler Bitancurt struggled kicking last week, but it was a snowstorm. Expect him to clean it up. Mike Molinari continues to strive in the punting game. Brad Starks has proven to be a good number two return man alongside Tavon. The coverage was better last week, but still far away from what you can call consistent. Again, the goal for this unit should be to not kill the rest of the team.
Louisville: They are solid in the kicking game with Chris Philpott. The coverage is very good as well. Jeremy Wright, Eli Rogers, and Scott Radcliff all have the ability to destroy the WVU kick coverage.
The Mountaineer offense is in for a great battle. It will certainly be tough if Louisville is able to make WVU one dimensional. But, the Mountaineers were able to break the LSU defense, so they should have success this weekend. The bigger story may be how Bridgewater does against the WVU defense. The Cards are still only averaging 17 points a game, and even a little more than that may not be enough. Expect the Mountaineers to pull away in the second half.
Prediction: 30-19 West Virginia