Round two of the Big East/Big 12 "Challenge" is on the docket for Thursday, with Louisville putting the Big East up 1-0 with a 38-29 home win over Kansas State last night. Redshirt freshman Victor Anderson had a big night for the Cards, rushing for 176 yards on just eighteen carries and three touchdowns. Louisville's defense also had two key interceptions in the second quarter that resulted in thirteen Cardinal points. But the task tonight will be much tougher for the defending Big East champions, who head into the high altitude to take on a young program on the rise.
#21 West Virginia @ Colorado (8:30PM EST on ESPN)
The Mountaineers had some time to stew over their last game, a stunning 24-3 loss at East Carolina. The fact that they lost at ECU wasn't much of a surprise; how they did it was something that took much of the nation by surprise. The key tonight for the Mountaineers is how much production do they get from offensive players not named Patrick White (3rd in the Big East in rushing, averaging 80.0 yards per game). Sophomore Noel Devine is sixth in the league in rushing, and he also had a decent day on the ground in their last game.
But to rack up a paltry 72 yards through the air? That's not going to get it done, especially with Colorado currently boasting the top run defense in the Big 12. But there could be opportunities to make plays with the likes of WR Jock Sanders and WR Dorell Jalloh against a defense that ranks 8th in the Big 12 in pass defense.
As for the young Buffaloes, an impressive win here could be a sign that their future is now. Sophomore QB Cody Hawkins has continued to improve with more experience, and he should only get better as he progresses.
"Offensively, I have always been a big fan and admirer of Coach Hawkins and his son, Cody, the quarterback, is just an extension of his father and his staff on the field," said West Virginia head coach Bill Stewart in his weekly press conference. "He knows where to go and when to go with the ball and he knows what the offense is all about. The young man does a great job keeping in the framework of his dad's offense."
And there's also a capable stable of running backs led by heralded freshman Darrell Scott. But the Buffs have been mediocre thus far on the offensive side of the football. That's where talented threat Josh Smith comes into play. Smith, who returned a kickoff for a touchdown in their season-opening win against Colorado State, leads the Big 12 in all-purpose yards and kick return yards. It would be a good idea for the Mountaineers to limit his chances at breaking a big one.
As for who wins this game, I'll take Colorado due to the home field advantage. There was a time when opponents visiting Folsom Field didn't have much to worry about in regards to fan atmosphere. But the times have changed in Boulder. I guess that's what a little "Hawk Love" will do for a program.