CFB: West Virginia-Colorado (8:00 PM ET ESPN)

CFB: West Virginia-Colorado (8:00 PM ET ESPN)

ESPN continues its nightly coverage of college football on Thursday when it bring you West Virginia visiting Colorado.


2008-09-18

ESPN continues its nightly coverage of college football on Thursday when it bring you West Virginia visiting Colorado. The Mountaineers are 1-1, the Buffaloes are 2-0, but WVU's lofty preseason ranking has 78% of the Sportsbook.com betting pool backing the visitors as 3-point favorites.

West Virginia will have had 12 days to stew about its confounding effort, or lack there of against East Carolina in 24-3 loss in Greenville. It wasn't like the Mountaineers had not lost before, suffering five losses in the previous three seasons. It was more a matter of how they lost that was so shocking. After the Pirates scored to go ahead 24-3, it was readily apparent this contest was over. What is crystal clear, West Virginia for the time being is a team in transition. The Rich Rodriquez recruited players are used to physical, knock the opponent in the mouth football, running it down their throats. Now it is more finesse-oriented and players are grasping for new identity, while holding onto the past. West Virginia travels to Rocky Mountains looking to improve on 15-6-1 ATS road favorite record.

Coach Bill Stewart is trying to change the offense and by all appearances, does not have the right people in place to do so. Much like Rodriguez is trying to change Michigan into his preferred style, Pat White is not going to be confused for a NFL quarterback. After he threw for over 200 yards against Villanova, TV talking heads were praising the "new" West Virginia offense, being a more versatile attack. After the Mountaineers failed to score an offensive touchdown for the first time in seven years, these same people talked about how physical the East Carolina defense was, sidestepping the real issue. Maybe passing for only 72 yards will work to West Virginia's advantage, being 26-11 ATS after throwing for 125 or less yards in previous contest.

Colorado avoided serious embarrassment back on September 6, scoring two touchdowns in the fourth quarter (last was interception for Pick Six) for a come from behind win against Eastern Washington 31-24. The Buffalos narrow escape was befuddling for team that is 10-17 (11-14 ATS) in a touch over two seasons and can hardly be considered a Big 12 power and not assuredly a team on the rise. What was obvious in the close call over Eastern Washington, if the Colorado defense doesn't generate a pass rush, they are vulnerable to opposing offenses.

Quarterback Cody Hawkins will need to be more consistent in the passing game and the offensive line to open bigger holes for backs Darrell Scott and Rodney James to run thru. Colorado needs a balanced attack and is 30-13 ATS when they gain 200 to 250 net passing yards. The Buff's offensive line is every bit as physical as East Carolina and West Virginia had only one sack and did not force a turnover.

West Virginia would be wise to play power football with the Buffalos, since Colorado is 14-26 (17-23 ATS) in last 40 non-conference regular season games. Besides doing a better job of running the ball, the ‘Teers should get the ball to Noel Devine and Jock Sanders in open space to let them use sprinter speed and shifty moves to avoid charging Buffalos. Colorado is only 4-13 ATS after allowing 100 or less rushing yards in two straight games.

Sportsbook.com has West Virginia as three-point road favorites, which is down probably two points minimum of what it would have been before the season started. Colorado is just 3-6 ATS as home underdog the last four years and 2-6 SU and ATS off a bye week.

West Virginia coach Bill Stewart has to make sure team develops a personality and plays to their talents, not necessarily his desires. If they do, Colorado falls to 0-9 ATS versus non-conference BCS schools.

Kickoff will be a little later starting at 8:30 Eastern on ESPN, with the game on the west side of the Mississippi River. With the total at 57, our Game Estimator sees this one going OVER the total.

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