Big East Betting Preview: Connecticut Huskies at West Virginia Mountaineers

Connecticut Huskies at #16 West Virginia Mountaineers
Mountaineer Field – Morgantown, West Virginia

Saturday, October 8, 2011, 12:00 pm Eastern, TV: Big East Network, SNY, Altitude, ESPN Game Plan
Opening Line: West Virginia -21
Current Line: West Virginia -20
Opening Total: 55 1/2
Current Total: 55 1/2
Opening Money Line: WVU -1300 / UConn +850
Current Money Line: WVU -1000 / UConn +700

West Virginia hosts Connecticut in the Big East opener for both teams Saturday. West Virginia is a 20 point favorite.

What a difference a year makes. Last year these two teams along with Pittsburgh tied for the Big East title, and Connecticut won the tiebreaker and received the Big East’s BCS bid. However this year UConn lost a lot of talent on both sides of the ball, and even their head coach Randy Edsall who left for the Maryland job. This year, the Huskies under new coach Paul Pasqualoni, are 2-3 with wins at home over Fordham 35-3 and at Buffalo 17-3. UConn has losses at Vanderbilt 24-21, at home against Iowa St 24-20, and last week at home versus Western Michigan 38-31. West Virginia, meanwhile is 4-1 and ranked #16 in the AP poll. The Mountaineers are coached by Dana Holgorsen in his first year at West Virginia. The only blemish on the schedule came two weeks ago at home versus #1/#2 LSU 47-21. West Virginia has home wins over Marshall 34-13, Norfolk St 55-12, and last week over Bowling Green 55-10. They also have a win at Maryland 37-31. This is the Big East opener for both schools. This is the 8th meeting between C0nnecticut and West Virginia. The Mountaineers lead the series 6-1, but the Huskies beat them for the first time ever last year in East Hartford 16-13 in overtime.

UConn and Western Michigan played a back and forth game last week. It wasn’t decided until less than 2 minutes left in the game when Western Michigan scored on a 41 yard touchdown pass to take a 38-31 lead. UConn was unable to score on their last possession. The Huskies were 3 point favorites on the college football betting line. The game was sloppy on both sides as it featured 25 combined penalties and 3 turnovers. Western Michigan overcame 15 penalties and 2 turnovers in the win. The Huskies had 451 total yards including 300 yards passing by Johnny McEntee. McEntee also had 4 touchdown passes. UConn held the Broncos to 11 yards rushing, but they also allowed 479 yards passing to WMU quarterback Alex Carder, who had 5 touchdown passes.

UConn is averaging 342.8 yards a game, including 215.2 passing yards. The Huskies are scoring 24.8 points a game. UConn has 9 turnovers and has allowed 12 sacks. The Huskies are 21/75 on third and fourth down conversions, and 10/11 scoring in the red zone with 8 touchdowns. Connecticut is allowing 315.6 total yards a game including the 8th best rush defense in the country allowing 75.2 yards a game. The Huskies are allowing 18.4 points a game. UConn has forced 10 turnovers and 16 sacks. Husky opponents are 24/82 on third and fourth down conversions and 8/10 scoring in the red zone with 4 touchdowns.

McEntee is 65/129 passing for 913 yards, 6 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. Back-up Scott McCummings takes a few snaps as well. He has completed 2 of his 4 passes, both for touchdowns, but is mostly used as a runner with 32 carries for 80 yards and a touchdown. Running back Lyle McCombs has 123 carries, 502 yards, and 4 touchdowns along with 8 catches, 106 yards, and a touchdown catch. Back-up D.J. Shoemate is out for the season with a shoulder injury. He only had 8 carries before the injury, and will redshirt this year. Receiver Isiah Moore has 18 catches, 264 yards, and no touchdowns. Ryan Griffin has 12 catches, 228 yards and a touchdown. Kashif Moore has 16 catches, 220 yards, and 3 scores. Nick Williams has only 3 catches, but he has 139 yards, and 2 touchdowns. Kicker Dave Teggart is 14/14 on extra points, and 6/10 on field goals with a long of 52 yards.

Bowling Green took a 10-3 lead in the first quarter against West Virginia last week, but the Mountaineers scored 52 unanswered points to win 55-10. West Virginia rolled up 643 total yards, including 360 rushing yards, and 30 first downs. West Virginia held Bowling Green to 217 total yards and 14 first downs. The Falcons had 5 turnovers in the loss.

The Mountaineers are averaging 496 yards a game, including 362.8 passing yards. Both rank in the top 15 in the country and the passing game is ranked #6 in the country. West Virginia is averaging 40.4 points, which is #13 in college football. West Virginia has 7 turnovers and has allowed 5 sacks. The Mountaineers are 34/75 on third and fourth down conversions, and 26/28 scoring in the red zone with 19 touchdowns. West Virginia is allowing 306.4 total yards a game, including 179 passing yards a game. The Mountaineers are allowing 22.6 points a game. The Mountaineers have forced 8 turnovers and 3 sacks. West Virginia opponents are 27/80 on third and fourth down conversions, and 14/17 scoring in the red zone with 9 touchdowns.

West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith is 138/213 passing, for 1,709 yards, 12 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions, along with 13 carries for 6 yards. Running back Dustin Garrison has 45 carries, 356 yards, and 4 touchdowns, along with 11 catches for 90 yards. Vernard Roberts has 44 carries, 140 yards,a nd 3 scores, along with 4 catches. Andrew Buie has 26 carries, 88 yards, and a touchdown, along with 6 catches. He is questionable Saturday with a collarbone injury. Shawne Alston has 18 carries, 83 yards, and 2 touchdowns. Receiver Tavon Austin has 35 catches, 490 yards, and a touchdown. Stedman Bailey has 27 catches, 456 yards, and 3 touchdowns. Ivan McCartney has 28 catches, 324 yards, and 3 touchdowns. Tyler Urban and Brad Starks each have 2 touchdown catches. Kicker Tyler Bitancurt is 25/25 on extra points and 9/10 on field goals with a long of 45 yards.

West Virginia is 2-3 against the spread this season and 4 of the 5 games have gone over the total. UConn is 1-4 ATS this season and 4 of the 5 have gone under the total. The Huskies have covered the last two games in the series against West Virginia. UConn is 35-17 ATS in the last 52 following a straight up loss, 21-7 ATS in the last 28 after failing to cover in the previous game, 11-5 ATS in the last 16 October games, 11-4 ATS in the last 15 as an underdog, and 5-0 ATS in their last 5 conference games. The Mountaineers are 3-0-1 ATS in the last 4 conference games, 5-2-1 ATS following a cover in the previous game, 1-4-1 ATS in their last 6 home games, and 2-9-1 in the last 12 as a home favorite of 10.5 points or more.

I know West Virginia is clearly the better team here, but recently these two rivals have played close games. Granted, UConn is rebuilding and doesn’t have nearly the talent they had last year. However, I still say the Huskies will be able to keep this close just because of their defense. The point spread is 20 points, and that seems like a lot. I could see West Virginia winning by 10 or 14 points.

Our college football handicappers are red hot in 2011, and are crushing the sports books.                 

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