No. 2 LSU Tigers (3-0 SU, 2-1 ATS) at No. 16 West Virginia Mountaineers (3-0 SU, 1-2 ATS), Saturday September 24th, 2011. 8:00PM EST, College Football Week 4
Mountaineer Field Morgantown, WV
By Jay Horne, College Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Louisiana St. -5/WVU +5
Over/Under Total: OFF
One of the biggest out of conference pairing this Saturday will reside in Morgantown, West Virginia this Saturday night when the no. 16 West Virginia Mountaineers host the no. 2 LSU Tigers with ESPN College Gameday on hand. Both teams have been rather impressive through the opening weeks of the season and will be attempting to keep their positive momentum afloat. The Mountaineers captured a big win on the road at Maryland last week 37-31. West Virginia actually led that game by as much as 34-10 before holding off a late Terrapins' rally to remain undefeated on the season. This week the Mountaineers will face their biggest challenge of their entire 2011 schedule in the no. 2 LSU Tigers.
LSU has been nothing short of impressive with each passing week this season. The Tigers dominated the Oregon Ducks in the season opener and then went on the road to capture a tough victory at Mississippi State last Thursday night 19-6. Defense was the story in all of those games. In fact, the LSU defense has made its claim to be the best defensive group in the entire nation and they have not given anyone any reason to dispute that claim thus far.
Currently the Tigers have the 6th best overall defense allowing just 207 yards per game. Furthermore, LSU ranks 3rd against the run allowing just 47 yards per game and has also allowed just 12 points per game this season. The LSU secondary is possibly the best of the bunch and was responsible for shutting down that explosive Oregon offense earlier this year. This week the LSU defense will need an 'encore' performance when they battle a West Virginia offense that currently ranks 7th in passing averaging 356 yards per game.
Coach Dana Holgorsen was brought to Morgantown to revive a sluggish West Virginia offense and through the first 3 games of the year Holgorsen has accomplished that feat. The Mountaineers currently house the 15th best scoring offense in the country averaging 42 points per game. QB Geno Smith has been outstanding completing 70% passing for 1,008 yards with 7 scores and 1 picks already this season. Smith has had an incredible start thanks to a new heavily favored passing system.
Junior WR Tavon Austin leads the team with 20 catches for 236 yards and 1 score. Austin was expected to be the leader in the receiving game. However, the passing offense has received solid help from sophomore wide outs Stedman Bailey and Ivan McCartney. Both young wide outs have caught at least 15 passes for over 200 yards and have provided a great boost for the entire offense. The big question this Saturday will be how will those talented West Virginia receivers stack up against the best pass defense in the country?
The LSU offense is not exactly a quick striking or flashy group. In fact the Tigers offense is quite the opposite. Coach Les Miles runs a power rushing scheme between the tackles that is designed to simply wear down opposing defenses. Running backs Spencer Ware and Michael Ford both have over 200 rushing yards on the season. Ware seems to be the tailback that will carry the majority of the workload, but Ford can get the job done as well. Both guys are averaging over 4 yards per carry and have 7 touchdowns combined.
Last week the Tigers rushing offense completely dominated the Mississippi State defensive front in the latter part of the game which is exactly what the Tigers offense is designed to do. Therefore it will be very important that the West Virginia defense makes some stops and gets off the field quickly. The Mountaineers defense will have a chance if they can stay rested and use the home crowd as momentum. However, that can only be done if they prevent LSU from going on typical long rushing drives.
In the passing game, QB Jarrett Lee has been consistent this season and has done a great job of minimizing mistakes. Lee has completed 67.8% passing for 444 yards with 3 touchdowns and 1 pick this season. Normally the LSU passing offense feeds off the success of the rushing attack with play action and other designed running fakes. Therefore, expect LSU to take some shots down the field when given the keen opportunity. However, LSU is not exactly a team that will beat you throwing the football as they will by wearing you down with their rushing attack. Therefore, again the Mountaineers must stop the run as their main priority or it will be a very long game for that West Virginia defense.
Jay's Pick to Cover the Point Spread - LSU has had extra preparation time and being in a hostile environment will be nothing new for the Tigers. The LSU secondary shows how good they are again. Bet LSU at -5.
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