(22) West Virginia (9-3) vs. North Carolina State (8-4) (+2.5)
It’s impossible to tell how this whole mess with Bill Stewart and Dana Holgorsen has affected West Virginia’s focus for their bowl game. But I’m going to have to guess anyway.
They’re keeping the same coach, so nothing really changed about practice or anything leading up to the game, but at the same time, all the players know what happened. The offense knows they won’t have the same coordinator come spring practice, so they’re playing their last game for Jeff Mullen. The younger players know that Stewart won’t be their head coach after next year, and he’ll be a lame duck all season anyway, making this either feel like they’re losing a father figure or that there’s no reason to go hard for him anymore.
Or maybe this will just feel like Stewart hired a new coordinator or something and the new-coach issues won’t come up until next offseason.
The players also know that Stewart basically isn’t the head guy anymore even now, so even though they all know him really well, how hard are the veterans going to be trying, especially Noel Devine, who is eying the NFL right now and is a little banged up? Will they play for Bill Stewart one more time knowing that it doesn’t really mean anything?
This is all made even more complicated because NC State is totally unpredictable. Russell Wilson can make plays and beat the Mountaineers all by himself, but he could also suck and kill his team’s chances too. So basically this comes down to which team I trust more.
In this situation, I just don’t trust West Virginia. There’s nothing about them, even if the team is totally focused, that screams dominance. They’re totally average in every way. That said, they’re coming from a higher level of skill than NC State, who just isn’t that good. And now I’ve talked myself in circles.
Guh. Never gamble on bowl games. It’s just not worth it.
Pick: West Virginia