Big East Against the Spread Picks: West Virginia Mountaineers at Rutgers Scarlet Knights

#25 West Virginia Mountaineers at Rutgers Scarlet Knights
High Point Solutions Stadium – Piscataway, New Jersey
Saturday, October 29, 2011, 3:30 pm Eastern, TV: ABC or ESPN GP
Opening Line: West Virginia -5 1/2
Current Line: West Virginia -6 1/2
Opening Total: 52
Current Total: 50 1/2
Opening Money Line: West Virginia -250 / Rutgers +210
Current Money Line: West Virginia -300 / Rutgers +250

West Virginia is a 7 point favorite on the road at Rutgers in a key Big East match-up.

Both West Virginia and Rutgers suffered their first losses in Big East play last Friday night. The conference is wide open as only a game and a half separates first place Cincinnati from seventh place UConn. Rutgers and West Virginia are both 5-2 overall, but Rutgers is 2-1 in Big East play while West Virginia is 1-1. The Mountainers are led by first year coach Dana Holgorsen, and have home wins over Marshall 34-13, Norfolk St 55-12, Bowling Green 55-10, Connecticut 43-16, and at Maryland 37-31. The Mountaineers have losses at home to #2 LSU 47-21 and last week at Syracuse 49-23. Rutgers is coached by Greg Schiano, and has losses at North Carolina 24-22 and at Louisville last week 16-14. Rutgers has home wins over North Carolina Central 48-0, Ohio 38-26, Pitt 34-10, and Navy 21-20 along with a road win at Syracuse 19-16 in double overtime. West Virginia leads the series against Rutgers 32-4-2 and has won 16 straight dating back to 1994. West Virginia won 35-14 last year in Morgantown.

West Virginia was a 14 point favorite on the college football betting line last week at Syracuse. The Orange were up 21-9 at halftime and outscored the Mountaineers 28-14 in the second half to rout West Virginia 49-23. The Mountaineers had 408 total yards but only 70 rushing yards. WVU quarterback Geno Smith threw for 338 total yards with 2 touchdowns and 2 picks. Smith was sacked 4 times. Running back Shawne Alston had a rushing touchdown. Receiver Stedman Bailey had 7 catches, 130 yards, and a touchdown. The Mountaineers missed an extra point in the first half but it turned out not to matter. Syracuse had 443 total yards including 194 rushing yards. The Orange had a 98 yard kickoff return for a touchdown after West Virginia had pulled to within 14-9 in the second quarter. That turned out to be huge because West Virginia scored on their opening possession of the second half and would have taken the lead.

The Mountaineers are averaging 489.9 yards a game, including 374.4 passing yards and 115.4 rushing yards. West Virginia is #13 in total offense the passing game is ranked #5 in the country. West Virginia is averaging 38.3 points, which is #18 in college football. West Virginia has 11 turnovers and has allowed 11 sacks. The Mountaineers are 48/106 on third and fourth down conversions, and 32/35 scoring in the red zone with 22 touchdowns. West Virginia is allowing 321.4 total yards a game, including 191 passing yards a game. Both are ranked  in the top 25 in the country. WVU allows 130.4 rushing yards a game.   The Mountaineers are allowing 25.4 points a game. The Mountaineers have forced 9 turnovers and 8 sacks. West Virginia opponents are 43/113 on third and fourth down conversions, and 21/25 scoring in the red zone with 14 touchdowns. The Mountaineers have 2 defensive/special teams touchdowns, but have given up 4.

Smith is 189/299 passing, for 2,497 yards, 18 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions. Running back Dustin Garrison has 74 carries, 494 yards, and 5 touchdowns, along with 17 catches for 126 yards. Vernard Roberts has 44 carries, 140 yards,  and 3 scores, along with 4 catches. Roberts missed the last 2 games but is expected to play against Rutgers. Alston has 29 carries, 137 yards, and 3 touchdowns. Andrew Buie has 28 carries, 99 yards, and a touchdown, along with 6 catches.  Bailey has 41 catches, 764 yards, and 6 touchdowns. Tavon Austin has 48 catches, 624 yards, and 2 touchdowns. Austin has over 1,200 all purpose yards for the Mountaineers. Ivan McCartney has 35 catches, 464 yards, and 3 touchdowns. He is listed as probable with a knee injury.  Tyler Urban has 2 touchdown catches, and Brad Starks has 4. Kicker Tyler Bitancurt is 32/33 on extra points and 12/13 on field goals with a long of 45 yards. Linebacker Josh Rigg and Offensive lineman Josh Jenkins are both out for the season.

Rutgers traveled to Louisville last week. The Scarlet Knights were 1 point underdogs. Rutgers scored just before halftime to make it 7-7. Louisville scored 9 points in the third quarter but Rutgers blocked a PAT. Rutgers scored at the beginning of the fourth quarter to pull within 2 points but neither team scored for the rest of the game. Rutgers lost 16-14. Rutgers had 8 penalties and 3 turnovers in the loss. The Scarlet Knights had 298 total yards including 91 rushing yards. Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova threw for 207 yards with a touchdown and 3 interceptions. Running back Savon Huggins had a rushing touchdown. Receiver Mohamed Sanu had 10 catches, 128 yards, and a touchdown. Kicker San San Te missed 2 short field goals.  Louisville had 309 total yards including 187 rushing yards. The Cardinals had 14 first downs and 10 penalties.

Rutgers is 5-2 but they struggle to move the ball. The Knights average 327.9 yards a game including just 91.7 rushing yards a game and 236.1 passing yards a game. Only 8 other teams in the country rush for less yards a game than Rutgers. Rutgers is scoring 28 points a game. The Scarlet Knights have 14 turnovers and have allowed 13 sacks. Rutgers is 53/123 on third and fourth down conversions, and 24/31 scoring in the red zone with 17 touchdowns. Rutgers is allowing just 301.3 yards a game including 117.1 rushing yards and 184.1 passing yards. All are in the top 30 nationally. The Knights allow just 16 points a game. Rutgers has forced 25 turnovers and 24 sacks this season. Knight opponents are 31/94 on third and fourth down conversions, and 12/20 scoring in the red zone with 7 touchdowns. Rutgers has 4 defensive touchdowns this year.

Chas Dodd was the Rutgers quarterback but was benched for the Pitt game two weeks ago. Nova is now the starter. Dodd is 69/127 passing for 754 yards, 6 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. Nova is 73/132 passing for 890 yards, 7 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. Jawan Jamison is the leading rusher with 124 carries, 376 yards, and a touchdown, along with 6 catches for 59 yards. He is questionable with a leg injury.  Huggins only has 51 carries for 136 yards but has 5 rushing touchdowns for Rutgers.  Sanu has 65 catches, 683 yards, and 6 touchdowns. The versatile  Sanu also returns punts, and has a handful of carries and pass attempts for the Knights. Mark Harrison, Joe Martinek, Quron Pratt, and Tim Wright also get significant catches. Kicker San San Te is 22/22 on extra points and 12/20 on field goals with a long of 50 yards. Rutgers has 5 defensive players out for the season.

Rutgers is 5-2 against the spread this season and the total is 1-6 in those games. West Virginia is 3-4 ATS and the total is 6-1 in those games. The last 2 games have gone over the total in this series. The Mountaineers are 4-1 ATS following a straight up win, and as a favorite of between 3.5 and 10 points, 4-1-1 in conference games, 3-1-1 after allowing 40 points or more in the previous game, 5-2 in road games at teams with winning home records, and 9-4 against teams with winning records. The Scarlet Knights are and 4-0-1 ATS versus teams with winning records, 3-1-1 as an underdog, and after scoring 20 points or less in the previous game, 19-7-1 as an underdog of between 3.5 and 10 points, 5-2-1 overall, 3-7 after allowing less than 20 points in the previous game, 2-5 as a home underdog, and 1-3-1 after a straight up loss, and 0-3-1 after failing to cover.

This is a contrast between explosive offense for West Virginia and dominant defense for Rutgers. Normally good defense will stop good offense, but if West Virginia gets out to an early lead, it could get ugly. Rutgers simply doesn’t have the firepower to keep up if they get too far behind. I think West Virginia should win this pretty easily.

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