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WEST VIRGINIA AT UCONN


11/1/08
 

3* Uconn +4 over West Virginia - (get the games before the lines move - sign up for the newsletter below) Last season these two teams were Big East Co-Champs. On paper at least. But the real Champions, were the West Virginia Mountaineers. They played last November 24th and West Virginia pounded Uconn to the tune of 66-21 while gaining over 500 yards in the process. But let's not forget that this was a special WVA team a year ago. They were one game away from the National title game. Sure, they hammered Uconn, but guess what? They also hammered #3 Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.

Uconn was a good, solid, scrappy football team last year. This year, with 9 back on offense and 8 on defense, pretty much the same team, Uconn is a good, solid, scrappy football team. They enjoy a huge home field edge, which we talked about last week, and they are one of the best coached teams in the Nation. If Randy Edsall doesn't end up with a big time coaching job, it will be a crime. The Huskies results are a direct reflection on Edsall. He makes the most of the talent he has. Comes up with sound game plans that puts his teams in a position to win games in the 4th quarter.

Uconn was criticized all of last year and continues to get criticized this year. They get the "breaks". They play a "soft schedule". That's all nonsense. Fact is, they continue to win football games. They are 6-2 this year and really, could be undefeated. They had a chance to win the Rutgers game but missed a last second field goal and the loss to North Carolina was deceiving. The score was 38-12 but the Tar Heels blocked 3 punts, one for a touchdown and the others setting up great field position. North Carolina scored 21 points off of Husky mistakes, which is a rarity. Take away that 21 points and you're looking at a 17-12 game. As it was, Uconn won the stat battle in that game. 23 first downs to NC's 13. Uconn had twice as many passing yards as well as more yards on the ground and they won the time of possession battle holding onto the ball for 36  minutes to North Carolina's 23. So Uconn is one bad game with some mistakes, and a missed field goal away from being undefeated. Likewise, take that 21 points NC scored off the mistakes away and you have a Uconn team that's competitive every time they take the field.

In case no one has noticed, West Virginia is down a notch. Let's forget about the Auburn game for a minute. After opening the year with a win over Villanova, WVA went on the road for two games in a row and lost them both. East Carolina beat them 24-3 and then Colorado knocked them off in overtime. Then they returned home, where they have been ever since. 4 straight games, all wins, all at home. But folks, look at who those wins came against. They beat Marshall. Then it was 24-17 over Rutgers. Then they beat Syracuse 17-6 after being up just 7-6 at the half. Syracuse!! Granted they played without Pat White in that Syracuse game, but last we checked, White didn't play defense. Syracuse had over 200 yards thru the air, they had 20 first downs to WVA's 13 and they controlled the ball for 35 minutes.


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Against Auburn, WVA trailed 17-3 off of two Pat White interceptions. To their credit, they were able to battle back and stick it to a pretty good Auburn defense in the 2nd half, showing flashes of a year ago. But it's still just one half of football. If you line up these two teams results side by side this year, quarter by quarter, you'd have to give Uconn the nod for having played more solid quarters of football. This is a WVA team that was scoring 40, 50 and 60 points in games a year ago yet aside from the Villanova game hadn't topped 27 all year until the 2nd half of last weeks Auburn game.

Uconn plays the type of football that keeps games close. West Virginia lost the time of possession battle in every game but 2 this year. Uconn is 7th in the Nation in time of possession. Uconn has the Nations leading rusher in Donald Brown and the team is 17th overall in rushing offense. West Virginia gives up some yards through the air as well which would seem to play right into the hands of the Uconn dink and dunk passing attack. Uconn doesn't need the long ball. Donald Brown left, Donald Brown right, screens out of the backfield, hit the tight ends........that's Uconn football. The defense isn't to shabby either. Aside from Auburn, Uconn is as good or better than every team West Virginia has faced this year.

Uconn gets the home field advantage. Perhaps a little weather working in their favor with a chance of rain. They have the added motivation of revenge for last years humiliation. They also have the chance to beat WVA for the first time, which is something these juniors and seniors, and coach Edsall would love to do. Very similar to the Cincinnati win a week ago, a team Uconn had never beaten.

Speaking of the revenge angle, Edsall and his staff downplayed that angle early in the week. But as it turns out, and as if we didn't already know, it actually is a pretty big deal. Here is a paragraph from a Hartford Courant article with a quote or two :

West Virginia coach Bill Stewart was right. That 66-21 pasting administered by the Mountaineers last season sure is posted in the Huskies' building.

It's in the locker room and their training room at the Burton Complex. And, said UConn senior defensive end Cody Brown, there is a picture of West Virginia's offensive line pinned in every defensive lineman's locker.

Not that anybody needed a reminder or motivation for this one, but the coaches want as much emphasis as possible.

Gotta love it. That's what college football is all about.

This game should be close all the way. No reason for it not to be based on the results of both of these teams thus far. West Virginia is not pounding teams into submission as they were a year ago. They are winless on the road and when they have won, other than the 2nd half last week at Auburn, they are barely getting by bad teams. Uconn on the other hand is 3 blocked punts and a missed field goal away from 8-0. Doesn't matter who the QB is this week for the Huskies. They just need someone to drive the car. Uconn has won 11 straight at home, 29-7 straight up there since 2003 and 12-5 against the spread in the 17 games in which they have been a dog in that time frame. We'll take the +4 in a very winnable game for Uconn. 3* Uconn +4

 

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