The final home game of the season comes to Mountaineer Field today at noon as the Mountaineers face off against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. For the WVU football team, their entire season is on the line. While the Mountaineers still need some help tonight from the South Florida Bulls as they play UConn, a glimmer of hope still burns for the BCS. While the Gold and Blue can't help what happens in Tampa, what happens in Morgantown is under their control.
On paper, it should be a cakewalk for the Mountaineers, but those who remember "13-9" won't count their chickens before they hatch. Some thoughts on today's matchup:
- It's Senior Day. First and foremost, it means the Noel Devine and Jock Sanders era comes to an end. Devine is the most highly-touted Mountaineer recruit of my lifetime and he has lived up to the hype in his four years Morgantown. I'll always associate Devine with Sanders since they arrived on campus at the same time and seem to be clones of each other. When they go back through the years tallying up the most athletic players in school history, both will finish high on the list. My biggest regret is that after coming back for his senior season, which he didn't have to do, Devine spent most of the season banged-up and ineffectual. Also playing in their final home game's today are much of the foundation of this nationally-ranked defense, including JT Thomas, Pat Lazear, Brandon Hogan, Scooter Berry, Anthony Leonard, Chris Neild and Sidney Glover. It's scary to think of where this team would be without those guys. That's a crew that will be hard to replace next season.
- The Mountaineer defense has led the way all season, and I expect more of the same. With the Rutgers offensive line being one of the worst in the conference, this could be a huge day for Bruce Irvin and JT Thomas. Those guys could find themselves spending a lot of time in the Rutgers backfield. Expect the Scarlet Knights to spend much of the game buried deep in their own territory, so it's not out of this world to think the Mountaineer defense could put a few points on the board of their own.
- On offense, I'd like the see offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen continue what he started against Pittsburgh. The Rutgers defense is nothing to be afraid of, so I expect to see Geno Smith get more time in the pocket to go through his reads. That said, there will still be a large helping of the heavy running game. I know that Bill Stewart's affinity for Noel Devine will make him a prominent part of the game plan early, but I think we see a whole lot of Ryan Clarke and Shawne Alston in the second half. Alston and Clarke are better backs for WVU right now than Devine, but that's based solely on the shortcomings of the line, and the ability of bigger backs to grit out tough yardage. That said, it would be absolutely tragic if Devine didn't find paydirt in his last game at Mountaineer Field.