No exCuses at WVa

Oct 15, 2002 7:19 AM

   As we advance deeper into the conference season, match-ups arise that have traditionally favored one side over the other.

   But it’s important to realize that history is not necessarily reality, and in order to succeed we must adjust our thinking to reflect the actual strengths and weaknesses of the teams that are on the field this season.

   A good example is Syracuse, which travels to West Virginia on Saturday. While the Orangemen have won six of the last seven contests, today’s reality is that Syracuse is a struggling team on its way to its first losing season since 1993.

   Syracuse at West Virginia —7½: As noted, the Mountaineers have lost six of the last seven meetings, but the Orangemen this season are sinking rapidly. Last week’s loss to Temple took the Orange to new depths, from which they probably won’t recover. Part of their problem is the inability to slow down, let alone stop, the run, and that’s the one thing the Mountaineers can do well. Expect West Virginia to run all over an abysmal Syracuse squad.

   Iowa State at Oklahoma —9: This is another match-up that has traditionally favored the “stronger” team — the Sooners have won six straight since 1992. Yet, they’ve covered the spread only once. This week’s reality is Oklahoma is coming off a huge effort against Texas, and Iowa State’s Seneca Wallace is emerging as a collegiate phenomenon. This could be the game of the week, with the nod going to Iowa State.

   Northwestern at Penn State —22: The Nittany Lions were unfortunate to lose at Michigan last week, but they will bounce back against a pitiful Northwestern team. Penn State beat Northwestern by 31 points here two years ago, and they have enough firepower to duplicate that margin this year, perhaps by the end of the first half.

   Arizona State at Oregon —11½: At this point, Oregon appears to be the best team in the Pac 10. The Ducks held off a prolific UCLA offense last week and should be able to move the ball at will against a weak Sun Devil defense. The favorite in this series has covered six of the last eight. That trend continues this week.

   Missouri at Texas Tech —7: Missouri will have a hard time recovering from its bad beat loss to Nebraska last week, which came on the heels of a tough loss to Oklahoma. Texas Tech, conversely, should bounce back from its loss to Iowa State. Quarterback Kliff Kingsbury will have a huge day at home as the Red Raiders win this one in relatively easy fashion.

   Notre Dame at Air Force —1½: It’s hard to believe Air Force is actually laying points to an undefeated Irish squad. But the Falcons have been nothing short of fantastic, and the servicemen will continue with a top effort this week. Notre Dame has done it with defense and special teams (its offense is virtually non-existent), plus a little Irish luck (just ask the Pittsburgh Panthers). But their luck runs out in Colorado Springs as the Falcons’ triple option offense runs circles around the Fighting Irish.

   Tulsa at Hawaii —32: How bad can Tulsa be? Well, the Golden Hurricane last week gave up 52 points at home to Boise State, and 43 points to Kansas the week before. It could get ugly early in Hawaii, where the Rainbow Warriors last week demolished Nevada with a 49-point first half en route to a 59-34 laugher. They should be able to name the score against the Wolf Pack.