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UCONN vs. West Virginia

Betting Line: WVA -6 O/U 45.5

10/27/10

 

Everyone knew this was going to be a down year for the Big East after the first few games of the season. However, most thought the West Virginia Mountaineers were a clear favorite and they were the only "good" team in the conference. Well, turns out that might not be so. They dropped a game to Syracuse last week and they now find themselves at 5-2 playing a desperate 3-4 Connecticut team. The Huskies will host this game after suffering a 26-0 beat down at the hands of Louisville Cardinals.

The first thing that jumps off the page when researching Connecticut football is their failure to compete in the special teams game. In a 24-21 loss to Rutgers they allowed 4 kick returns for 135 yards and a long return of 75 yards. Against Louisville they gave up 74 yard punt return for a TD. They won't win many games serving up what is for all intents and purposes a "free" TD each game.

The Connecticut QB situation is in shambles. They have a seasoned veteran senior in Frazer, but he is playing as poorly as an athlete can play so far in 2010. He has just 2 TD passes this year and they came against FCS foe Texas Southern. On the bright side, if there is one, he has thrown only a single INT.

Frazer will start only if redshirt freshman Michael Box cannot. Box was injured against Louisville and is questionable at this point in time. Regardless of who gets the start, things are looking bleak for this offense. They will have one of their toughest challenges of the year against a stout West Virginia defense and they are doing so with no distinguished leader.

Geno Smith has been a pleasant surprise at QB for the Mountaineers. He enters this game off a poor 1 TD, 3 INT performance against Syracuse, but before that he had 2 TDs against USF, and 3 against UNLV. He had no INTs in either of those games. While Smith is important, it is Noel Devine who makes the offense tick. He has 626 yards, 4 TDs, and a TD catch so far this year. The shifty senior's only bad game came against an ultra tough LSU defense. It will be up to him to get yardage against a Huskies defense that isn't putting up much of a fight in that department. If he gets 100+ yards this game will likely go to the Mountaineers.

Things are a little better on defense for the Huskies. They are 48th in the nation in Points Against at 22.6 PPG. If the offense was able to stay on the field a bit longer this number would surely get better. This defense has been weak against the run, but is doing well rushing the pass. They have 10 sacks in their past 3 games. In home games they have allowed 3, 21, and 21 points. If they can hold the Mountaineers to a point total that low they can cover the spread. 

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The Mountaineers defense has been nothing short of incredible in 2010. The only team to gain in excess of 300 yards is Marshall. They rank 6th overall in Points Against at 13.3 PPG. On average, they are giving up 246 yards of offense per game. Two games ago against USF they allowed just 202 yards. They are doing an excellent job of pressuring the QB and they will be licking their chops regardless of who takes the field for UCONN.

Last week was a tough one for UCONN. They lost a QB due to a failed drug test and also lost an offensive lineman. The week was capped off by an embarrassing 26-0 shut out to Louisville. UCONN is winless in Big East play. All this while many had picked UCONN to win the Big East as most believed this was the best group of talent Edsall has ever had at UCONN. But seasons tend to take on lives of their own. Now UCONN must face the only Big East team it has never beaten.

We still believe Randy Edsall is one of the better coaches in all of college football. He has always made the best of what he's had as far as talent. His UCONN teams have never been the most talented but they have always been dangerous and this was mostly always due to the fact that his teams didn't beat themselves.

So, after a week like last week, we'd expect to see a different UCONN team this week. We'd be shocked if they didn't show up. They'll have the benefit if playing at home, as an underdog, in a Nationally televised Friday Night game, in what amounts to a due or die situation with their season on the line. Not only is the Big East on the line, but their chances of making it to a 4th straight Bowl game are getting slimmer and slimmer as each week goes by. This team has won 8 or 9 games 3 straight years and has gone to a Bowl game 4 straight years. After WVA they have Pitt, Syracuse, Cinci and South Florida. Not an easy game on the schedule.

If it weren't for West Virginia losing at home to Syracuse last week, we would love UCONN in this spot. But coming off that loss, folks in West Virginia are getting antsy, both the media and the fans. So, similar to the UCONN situation, you'd expect a big bounce back week from the Mountaineers.

In coming up with a number on this game, we have WVA favored by about 6. So, not much of an edge for us when comparing our number to the betting line. We still favor the UCONN side, based on the desperation involved as well as this game being at home on under the Friday Night Lights.

Not a strong play, but something else to keep in mind is that this game opened up West Virginia -7 at a few "sharp" sportsbooks and has been bet down to -6 and -6.5 despite a very high percentage of the action coming in on West Virginia. This is an indication of sharp money on the UCONN side so we'll side with the sharps here in a game we already shaded towards UCONN. Small play - Uconn +6.5


 

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