Marshall Thundering Herd (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) vs. No. 11 West Virginia Mountaineers (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS)
College Football Week 1
Date/Time: Saturday September 1st, 2012. 12:00PM Eastern
Where: Mountaineer Stadium Morgantown, W.V
by Jay, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Marsh. +23.5/WVU -23.5
Over/Under Total: OFF
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The Mountaineers from Morgantown witnessed a lot of excitement in 2011. First year head coach Dana Holgorsen led West Virginia to a share of the Big East Championship while earning a trip to the Orange Bowl. Not only did the Mountaineers make an Orange Bowl appearance, but they delivered one of the most dominant performances in Orange Bowl history with a 70-33 shellacking over the Clemson Tigers. Now West Virginia hopes that year number 2 in the Holgorsen era will bring even more excitement as the Mountaineers begin 2012 play when they host the Marshall Thundering Herd in the season opener on September 1st.
The Mountaineers return a ton of talent from their 2011 roster. The offense is loaded with QB Geno Smith along with wide receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. Both Bailey and Austin had more than 1,100 yards receiving last season while combining for 20 touchdowns. Smith put up daunting numbers as well by completing 66% of his passes for 4,385 yards with 31 scores and just 7 picks. Needless to say with the help of some returning talent up front, the passing offense should present some fireworks again in 2012. Additionally sophomore running back Dustin Garrison should be even better to add stability in the run game. Garrison averaged 5.5 yards per carry as a freshman while posting 732 total yards on the ground. With a year of experience under his belt, Garrison should be an even bigger force for the offense this year.
As you can see, the Mountaineers have very little weaknesses on the offensive side of the football. The West Virginia offense should score plenty of points this season and rack up a ton of yards. The x factor this season will be the defense. The Mountaineers ranked 33rd in total defense during the 2011 season by holding opponents to 348 yards per game. However, those defensive numbers were against mediocre style offenses from the Big East. As the Mountaineers embark on their first season inside the Big 12, their defense will be key. West Virginia did suffer a few losses on the defensive side of the football but still return 7 of 11 starters. If the defensive line can hold it together, they should be a solid group.
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The Mountaineers first opponent this season will be a similar Marshall unit they beat 34-13 in last year’s opener. Marshall struggled during the early part of the 2011 season but found rhythm at the end of year by winning 4 of their final 5 games. The Thundering Herd severely struggled on the offensive side of the ball last season by averaging just 333 yards per game of total offense (102nd in FBS). QB Rakeem Cato became the first freshman starter for the Herd last season in nearly two decades. Despite early growing pains, Cato matured nicely for the offense and all off-season reports indicate he should be much improved. Marshall will rely heavily on Cato considering the offense failed to find any type of rushing success in 2011 and still have lingering question marks at the tailback position
On defense, Marshall has the unnerving task of replacing several starters. The Thundering Herd lost nearly the entire 2011 linebacker group and not to mention C-USA Defensive Player of the Year DE Vinny Curry. Therefore, Marshall’s front 7 has many holes to fill and it will be interesting to see how the Coach Doc Holiday deals with those losses. Marshall’s defense gave up over 400 yards per game last year and that was with a group of veterans. Not only does the defense have major concerns for 2012, but those concerns will be tested right away by an extremely dangerous West Virginia offense.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: The big question here is simply how many points the Mountaineers will win by? Marshall is just not capable of contending for the victory but they may be able to keep it within the spread if the defense can prevent the big plays. However, I do not expect West Virginia’s offense to stumble or need time for progression. This Mountaineers offense is a veteran group that has potential All-American type talent. I think the Mountaineers post a big number and roll. Take West Virginia -23.5
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