Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Bowl Appetit

Fiesta Bowl
Oklahoma -8 West Virginia

Can West Virginia, jilted by its head coach for a program with better history and infrastructure, at least make this BCS game competitive? The first two BCS games of the New Year were total gag-fests. This one has all the trimmings as well.

Both these teams have looked like world beaters at times. Oklahoma was poised to play for the national title until a late season loss at Texas Tech, and West Virginia looked ready to do the same until a home no-show against Pitt. Both these teams boast impressive yardage differentials. Oklahoma outgained their opponents by 1654 yards on the season (a shade more than 127 per game). West Virginia outgained their opponents by 1903 yards in one fewer game (158 per game). However, most of Oklahoma's alleged dominance occurred in 2 games--against North Texas and Utah State. If we remove those yardage margins where the Sooners outgained severely undermanned teams 1285-400, their yardage differential drops to 769 over 11 games (70 per game). In fact, if we only look at Big 12 conference games, their yardage differential is only 342 yards (38 per game). West Virginia did not play any cupcakes the likes of North Texas and Utah State. The worst teams they beat were Marshall, Western Michigan, and conference brethren Syracuse. If we remove their two most non-conference performances (Western Michigan and East Carolina) where they outgained their opponents by a yardage count of 1141-437, their yardage differential is still an impressive 1199 in 10 games (120 per game). In fact, in 7 Big East games, West Virginia outgained their opponents on average by 109 yards per game. West Virginia will probably lose as teams with interim coaches have yet to notch a victory this bowl season, but this one will be very close.

The Pick: West Virginia will cover the 8 point spread.

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