This one is strange.
Well, strange in terms of these two teams meeting. There just seems like a better way to do business in college football than to pay a boatload of money (almost 3/4 of a million bucks) to a team and have them schlep across the country for what most people think will be a runaway.
Oh, I am not complaining, I love covering college football. And, by the way, please, please, please, please, please Mr. Mike Parsons, and all the scheduling gurus at West Virginia, go ahead and, out of the kindness of your heart, return the favor and give UNLV a home game in this series.
It would be a get-a-lot-of-work-done, mixed in with a little fun debaucherous trip for a few sportswriters.
Either way, pay attention to these five things at Mountaineer Field on Saturday:
1. The man behind the man: If Noel Devine is limited, and the guess here is that he will be limited but will play, it will be intriguing to see what happens with the tailback spot. Now, this is a story that has been written by virtually every person who covers this football team, but it is something that is most glaring. Will the offense go with the heavy package and leave Ryan Clarke at tailback? Will it be one of the young tailbacks? Will it be a receiver shifted over in the less-than-ideal situation? Who knows. But one thing is certain -- a backup tailback needs cultivated.
2. Urban assault: What might not seem like a big thing to many, really is: Tyler Urban's return and how it shapes the running game. The young man is a wonderful blocker on that edge and also crashing across to pick off an outside backer. He is the type of player who can spring a big run that could change the course of this game in a certain regard. And here is how: Urban could seal off that edge, allowing Noel Devine to rip one early, West Virginia build a big lead, and Devine get out of the game to rest up for USF.
3. Kicking himself: There is no question that Tyler Bitancurt was kicking himself a bit after his performance against LSU, which was, quite obviously, not something he wants to remember. This game should shape up to be an opportunity where Bitancurt gets a chance to kick a field goal or two. For West Virginia's sake, Bitancurt left that funk he was in down in Baton Rouge. If not, if he continues to struggle, it could be time to take a serious look at the position, as kickers truly are "what have you done for me lately" men on the football field.
4. Back in shape?: Linebacker Pat Lazear was used very sparingly in that LSU game and continues to claw back from that (apparently ridiculously rigid) legwhip Robert Sands hit him with in preseason camp. From what I have been told, the leg is doing very well, now it is simply a case of Lazear getting back into game shape before he can contribute fully at that mike linebacker slot. This game will be a good one to ease him back into, get him some more snaps than down at LSU. It will be interesting to see how quickly Lazear can track down a ballcarrier, and just how much his body has regressed in the time he has been out.
5. The line, yes, that line: Everyone I know is talking about the point spread for this game. Depending on who the person is making the spread -- provided it isn't Mickey Furfari's bookie -- the line is anywhere from 27-29 points. Seems the people who dip into such matters have a problem with this, as West Virginia has not shown much of a penchant for eclipsing the 30-point mark during Bill Stewart's tenure as the boss of the Mountaineers. With that said, if the score is something like 35-10 or 31-7 late in this game, expect it to not be over ... well, at least not be over in terms of people who like to wager money on events such as these (not that I know anything about that kind of stuff).