West Virginia Mountaineers at Connecticut Huskies, Rentschler Field, East Hartford, CT
Friday, October 29, 2010, 8:00 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN2
Opening Line: West Virginia -6
Current Line: West Virginia -6 1/2
Opening Total: 46
Current Total: 45 1/2
Money Line: WVU -235/ UConn +195
Both of these teams are coming off disappointing games last week and are desperate for a win in the competitive Big East. West Virginia is 5-2 after a disappointing loss at home to Syracuse 19-14. UConn is 3-4 and in last place in the Big East with an 0-2 conference record. The Huskies were expected to compete for the Big East title at the beginning of the season, but now are just fighting to become bowl eligible. Connecticut has done well against the number since 1992 going 68-45 ATS including 54-34 in games on grass. West Virginia has gone 19-8 ATS in October road games since 1992 and are 17-4 against the college football point spread in road games against teams with losing records in the same period.
Turnovers doomed the Mountaineers last week against a Syracuse team that West Virginia was heavily favored to beat. They also had only 284 total yards and 9 penalties for 64 yards. It was a very sloppy game that raised some doubts about the Mountaineers who until last week were widely considered to be the class of the Big East. They still might be as the Big East is definitely the worst among the BCS automatic qualifying conferences. The Mountaineers are outscoring their opponents 26-13 and outgaining them 363-246 yards a game. They have forced 19 sacks but have a turnover margin of -1. Defense isn’t a problem but the offense does struggle sometimes. Quarterback Geno Smith is throwing for 220 yards a game and had 15 touchdowns and 5 interceptions for the season. Three of those interceptions came last week in the Syracuse game. Smith has been sacked 14 times which is almost twice per game. Running back Noel Devine has been solid this season but isn’t living up to the massive pre-season expectations. He bruised a bone in his leg in the loss to LSU. Though he didn’t miss any games he wasn’t the same dominant back that he was last year. He did rush for over 100 yards last week in the loss to Syracuse. Devine does have 626 yards on 127 carries and 4 touchdowns. He also has 22 catches and 1 touchdown. Smith usually throws to two receivers Tavon Austin (39 catches, 445 yards and 3 touchdowns) and Jock Sanders (39 catches, 370 yards, 2 touchdowns), but Stedman Bailey (13 catches, 3 touchdowns) and Brad Starks (9 catches, 4 touchdowns) are dangerous targets as well.
UConn has struggled this season and is desperate for their first conference win. Last week the Huskies were pathetic in a 26-0 loss at Louisville. They had 3 turnovers and less than 200 yards of total offense. The Husky defense didn’t play that badly as they gave up only one offensive touchdown. The rest of the Cardinal scoring came on a punt return and 4 field goals. For the season the Huskies are giving up 23 points a game and 357 yards a game. They have forced 18 sacks and 12 turnovers for the season. The Huskies have 12 turnovers of their own including 8 fumbles. On offense the Huskies score 28 points and gain 357 yards a game. They do have some questions at quarterback after starter Cody Endres was suspended for the rest of the season. Redshirt Freshman Michael Box started last week against Louisville but was awful throwing for a paltry 35 yards and an interception. Expect Zach Frazer, who started for the Huskies at the beginning of the season to see some playing time as well. He has thrown for 605 yards 2 touchdowns and an interception. Expect the Huskies to lean heavily on running back Jordan Todman as Box learns the offense. Todman has 141 carries, 841 yards, and 8 touchdowns. Back-up Robbie Frey has 3 touchdowns as well. The top two receivers for the Huskies are Michael Smith (24 catches, 414 yards, 2 touchdowns) and Kashif Moore (24 catches, 268 yards, 3 touchdowns.)
On paper, West Virginia looks to be a much better team, but the Mountaineers must protect the quarterback as the Huskies are getting more than 2 1/2 sacks a game. For the Huskies, they must improve on their 31 percent conversion rate on 3rd down. That might be a little difficult with a raw quarterback against a dominant defense. The weather will not be a factor as it will be in the 60’s with no rain, unseasonably warm for Connecticut given that it is almost November. Both of these teams need a win badly, and it will be interesting to see what happens.
Maddux Sports has released college football picks for this game. We know we have the right side and this figures to be a nice easy winner. Start your weekend off on a winning note by grabbing Maddux’s Friday college football sports picks package.