West Virginia +8.5 at LSU O/U 42
Recommendation: West Virginia
Saturday, 6 pm PT – ESPN2
This is the sixth straight year West Virginia has faced an SEC opponent. They beat Georgia in the 2005 Sugar Bowl, swept Mississippi State in 2006 and 2007 by a combined margin of 80-27, and split two games with Auburn over the past two years. They knocked off the Tigers at home 34-17 and lost at Auburn last year, 41-30. West Virginia actually dominated last year’s game, piling up 509 total yards, but a -5 turnover margin with two interceptions returned for touchdowns was too much to overcome.
This season, the Mountaineers are 3-0 with wins over Coastal Carolina, Marshall and Maryland. They were fortunate to win their only road game, beating arch-rival Marshall in overtime after trailing by two touchdowns. West Virginia played much better last week in its home win over Maryland, but did allow two long touchdown passes that narrowed the final margin to 31-17 after building a 28-0 lead. West Virginia’s defense had eight sacks in the game after not having any in its first two games.
This week the going will get much tougher for the Mountaineers as they travel to Baton Rouge for a night game. LSU improved to 3-0 with its win over Mississippi State last week at home, 29-7. It was the second straight SEC win for the Tigers, both coming against teams that struggle to throw the ball. In Week 1, LSU beat North Carolina, 30-24, but allowed the Tar Heels to throw the ball effectively after they had built a big lead. The LSU defense will be tested by West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith, who has thrown for more than 800 yards in his first three starts.
Offensively, LSU has been inconsistent thus far. They had five turnovers against the Tar Heels, scored 27 points at Vandy, and managed just 264 yards and five field goals last week against Mississippi State. Starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson has come under fire for his play, to the point that Les Miles has spoken about back-up Jarrett Lee getting some snaps. Jefferson has thrown for less than 100 yards in each of the last two games.
I have the suspicion that LSU is a little bit overrated right now with their top-15 ranking. They have been able to win their last two games against inferior offensive teams, but now face a team that can throw and pass the football. West Virginia has had plenty of success against SEC teams, so they won't be intimidated by playing at LSU at night. LSU has also been overvalued at home under Les Miles, compiling an 11-20 ATS record during his tenure at Tiger Stadium. At over a touchdown, I feel more than comfortable taking the points.