PICKIN' AND GRINNIN'
Greg's four-point miss (tied for the lowest differential of the season) was impressive, but it was his game selection that allowed him to move into sole possession of second place in the season standings. He'll still need a stumble from Chris to make a move on the top spot, but that chance won't likely come until the bowl game.
Picks for a WVU loss, while understandable, served to shuffle the standings a bit. There's a clear three-pack division this week, with Patrick, Bill, Brian and Jane fighting to avoid the cellar. A potential boo may also be going out to those picking to get back into the standings -- more on that in our bowl edition.
|Chris Richardson||Last Week: W||Season: 9-2||Pt Diff: 304|
Perhaps the greatest loss with the changing landscape of college football is the loss of rivalry games. This has hit close to home with the Mountaineers, who no longer play for the Black Diamond Trophy (Virginia Tech), the Schwartzwalder Trophy (Syracuse), or compete in the Backyard Brawl (Pitt). Luckily, the Kansas game provides an opportunity for the Mountaineers to gain a new rival. From now on, I'm calling this one the Chris Wallace Bowl.
It's a natural fit. Wallace, the Buckhannon native and current general manager of the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies, is as diehard of a Mountaineer fan as you'll find. Listen to his frequent appearances on Memphis-area radio shows or even the MetroNews Statewide Sportsline, and he's sure to spend as much time (if not more) talking about WVU football than the Grizzlies or the NBA in general.
Ironically, though, Wallace did not attend his beloved state university. After leaving Buckhannon, he enrolled at Kansas before starting the Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook in the early 1980's, which eventually led him into the NBA scouting ranks. Fittingly, the winner of the annual Chris Wallace Bowl will receive a feast at the legendary Muriale's Italian Restaurant in Fairmont, Wallace's favorite restaurant.
|Pick: West Virginia 45-24|
|Greg Hunter||Last Week: W||Season: 8-3||Pt Diff: 278|
|Kansas has lost 20 straight Big 12 games, but WVU had better not dismiss the Jayhawks, who did have strong – though losing – efforts against Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Texas. Still, looks like a good matchup for the Mountaineers, whose one huge weakness (pass defense) isn't an area KU can exploit as easily as the other Big 12 opponents.|
|Pick: West Virginia 41-24|
|Andy Easton||Last Week: W||Season: 7-4||Pt Diff: 299|
Its hard to sugarcoat the fact that Kansas is one of the worst teams in college football's FBS this season. In the RPI the Jayhawks are ranked 122nd, with 12 FCS schools ranked ahead of them. Unfortunately for Kansas, their strengths on offense play right into the strength, if there is one, of WVU's defense. The Jayhawks are 19th in the country in rushing, averaging 216.6 yards yards per game, but have had a hard time passing the ball, averaging 151.5 yards per game, good for 117th nationally.
With WVU looking to improve their bowl prospects this should be -- and will be -- a blowout and a fitting send off to this year's senior class.
|Pick: West Virginia 52-20|
|Tony Dobies||Last Week: W||Season: 7-4||Pt Diff: 299|
West Virginia will move to 7-5 on the xeason after a second straight solid win. This one might look closer on the scoreboard than wher it really ends up being.
Since it's the last game for Geno Smith and Tavon Austin, expect thsoe two to go off. They are the two most talented players on the field, and it should be clear.
West Virginia's defense should be able to limit a recently powerful Kansas running game, and it should get just enough stops to set the Mountaineers up for a warmer bowl game.
|Pick: West Virginia 49-38|
|Matt Keller||Last Week: L||Season: 7-4||Pt Diff: 340|
|This one should be akin to death and taxes. Senior Day, at home against an overmatched foe with better bowl ramifications. But teams with nothing to lose can be dangerous. This is KU's bowl game, and it plays like it.|
|Pick: Kansas 28-27|
|Patrick Southern||Last Week:L||Season: 6-5||Pt Diff: 272|
Motivation is a funny and fickle thing in football. Who is more motivated
coming into this game? Is it Kansas, which stands on the precipice of
having to go through another entire offseason hearing about how they
haven't beaten a current Big 12 member since early in the 2009 season? Or
is it West Virginia, which has a postseason game to look forward to and
seems to be playing for a marginal bowl upgrade?
On paper, this one shouldn't be close. But then again, Kansas' losses to Oklahoma State (20-14), Texas (21-17) and Texas Tech (41-34 in double OT) probably weren't supposed to be close either. Still, it's hard to believe the Mountaineers could lay this monumental of an egg on Senior Day.
|Pick: West Virginia 45-24|
|Bill Gleason||Last Week: L||Season: 6-5||Pt Diff: 318|
West Virginia comes into Senior Day a 20-point favorite. The Mountaineers haven't beaten a team by 20 since September 15th, and that was an FCS school.
WVU is certainly the team with the momentum, with last week's win being the only one either of these two als- rans have mustered in over a month.
The question, when Kansas comes to Morgantown on what looks to be a fairly balmy mid-50s afternoon in Big 12 Offensive Player of the Week City, is whether WVU's defense can stop Kansas' offense in either of its configurations. Their rushing attack, with QB Michael Cummings at the helm, or the pro style attack with Dayne Crist , will provide another test for the Mountaineer defense.
My guess is the game comes down to turnover margin, which has been a Jayhawk bugaboo all season, with both Kansas QBs throwing more balls to the other team than touchdowns on the season.
Can the Mountaineers get up off the mat one more time in front of a three-quarter filled stadium against a heavy underdog just to get an opportunity to go to San Diego instead of New York City in December?
|Pick: West Virginia 52-37|
|Brian Jolliff||Last Week: W||Season: 6-5||Pt Diff: 334|
In a season where many things happened as I expected, I was equally shocked and surprised as to how those games eventually played out. We st Virginia won a few games it most likely should not have won and lost a few that it certainly should not have lost. Then there were the ones where the Mountaineers should have had a few extra bowls of Wheaties... all of which added up to a disappointing season for many of the WVU faithful.
Now the final home game of the year is upon us, which just happens to be the final regular season game, as well as the last home game for the seniors. If only for that last comment, I think WVU comes out of this weekend with a win... not to mention that Kansas really does not have a good team this year. ( I think the KU crowd would agree here). The seniors close out the final home game with a solid performance.
|Pick: West Virginia 59-24|
|Jane Donovan||Last Week: W||Season: 6-5||Pt Diff: 350|
And so we come to the end of a topsy-turvy, up and down, stranger than gray-and-gold-uniforms regular season. To no one's surprise, the twitterverse is aflutter with conference realignment gossip/speculation once again, and boy, is it good to be safely on the inside looking out instead of than on the outside looking in. Thank you, Big 12. It's good to have a home among the nation's finest and especially among the nation's friendliest and most welcoming.
To our seniors: thank you. I know this season didn't turn out the way you hoped, but despite everything, you gave us some amazing memories. Geno, Tavon, Stedman: all I can say is wow for the kind of fireworks you provided. To the rest of our seniors: good luck and godspeed, with a special shout-out to one from your buds in Stansbury Hall. Make Saturday memorable.
|Pick: West Virginia 55-27|