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West Virginia vs. Rutgers Big East Football Pick with Analysis

10/29/11

Rutgers hosts #25 West Virginia on Saturday in a crucial Big East match up. The Big East is wide open for the taking and both of these teams are contenders with Rutgers 2-1 in conference play and West Virginia 1-1. West Virginia is a 7 point road favorite with a total of 53. Both teams are in off disappointing losses and looking to bounce back in a big way.

Rutgers success can be traced to playing sound fundamental football. In order for a team like Rutgers to be successful they need to do all of the little things right. They need to not turn the ball over and they need to create opportunities. Special teams needs to play a big role and the team essentially needs to simply play mistake free football. Teams with a ton of talent can overcome a mistake or two. For a team like Rutgers, there's no room for error. This style of play is what propelled UCONN to the Big East title and a BCS Bowl game last season.

Last week, Rutgers got away from what brought them to a 5-1 record heading into Louisville. They turned the ball over 3 times, missed two field goals, missed tackles and failed to capitalize when they needed to. It really is that simply. Had Rutgers made just one of those missed field goals, the outcome would have been different. Rutgers had their chances. Mistakes cost them.

Here's a quote from Rutgers coach Greg Schiano -  “A lot of things happened tonight that we were supposed to do and we just made mistakes in a lot of areas,” coach Greg Schiano said. “Good tacklers missed tackles. Kickers missed kicks. Quarterbacks missed throws. Receivers missed catches and coaches made bad calls. There were a lot of things we didn’t do very well. When you play a team that has the athletes Louisville does and you make mistakes you’re going to get beat.

For West Virginia last week, it was a lot more than simply making a couple of mistakes. They were beaten soundly in all phases of the game by Syracuse, 49-23. In fact, this West Virginia team doesn't scare you the way past editions have. Ok, they blew out UCONN and Bowling Green. Outside of that, there's nothing to write home about. They were pounded by LSU and Syracuse, blew a 24 point lead to Maryland while giving up almost 500 yards of offense while holding on for the win, and beat Marshall and Norfolk State.

Neither of these teams has much of a running game. If there's an edge to be had here it's West Virginia's #5 ranked passing attack behind QB Geno Smith. But it's Rutgers who has made better use of yards gained this year which we can tell from the yards per point numbers of 12 on offense and almost 19 on defense. West Virginia has a 13 on both sides of the ball. Using those numbers to make a line on this game, Rutgers would be a 9 point favorite. Our score prediction model would agree, predicting a 28-21 win for Rutgers, a straight up win for the 7 point dog.

Rutgers has been dominated in this series. West Virginia has won 16 straight and many if not most of those were lopsided but the past few years saw the gap close a bit. The margin was 3 in 2009, 7 in 2008 and 2 in 2006, with 2007 and last year being blowouts. If you're Rutgers, you've got to take advantage of the chance to break through in the win column when you get the chance. That chance is now. Rutgers +7

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