Picks and Pontifications: Alabama

Picks and Pontifications: Alabama

We don't just pick the score each week -- our array of employees and friends of BlueGoldNews.com offer their unique takes every Mountaineer opponent. First up -- the Crimson Tide of Alabama.

Can WVU pull off a William Tecumseh Sherman? Or will the Mountaineers stagger out of Atlanta like Rick Grimes and his group? Is the consensus a close game, or a romp? Before we get to the West Virginia - Alabama picks, a recap of last year.

WINNING SELECTIONS

Last year's champion, Andy, edged out Chris (Go Mules!) for the title by a mere eight points on cumulative point differential. Both went 8-4 (along with Michael), reversing the team's 2013 record. We've listed the pickers in order of finish from a year ago, with the addition of new staffer Roger Harvey, who has been busily digesting the results of his preseason Mountaineer coverage.


HOPE YOU DIDN'T BET THIS PICK

Brian's 5-7 mark from a season ago tied Jane and Jon for the bottom spot, but his cumulative points missed total gave him the dubious honor of returning low picker. We have faith that he'll improve this year -- just like Mountaineer fans do in their team. Now, on with the selections!


Andy Easton Last Week: -- Season: 0-0 Point Differential: --
From all indications WVU will be an improved team this year and has a shot at a bowl game, something that used to be an afterthought. Is the 2014 edition of the Blue and Gold improved enough to beat Alabama in the middle of SEC country? Not even close.

The Tide has the advantage is virtually every category including talent and coaching. This one won’t be close.
Alabama 41-10

Chris Richardson Last Week: -- Season: 0-0 Point Differential: --
I want to pick the Mountaineers. I really do. In my heart of hearts I want to believe that this team is better. And it very well may be...but probably not good enough yet to beat Alabama right out of the gate. Optimists keep pointing to the revolving door at QB for the Crimson Tide in fall camp. And it really does seem like there are questions under center. But there aren't questions up front. And there aren't questions in the backfield. And Nick Saban is the master of keeping his players focused on the smallest of details. Speaking of those players, save your program from this game and go through it in four or five years. Cross-reference how many of the guys on the Alabama roster from now will be on NFL rosters then. Therein lies the greatest difference between these two teams.

Over the long haul I expect the Mountaineers to be better this year. I like what I've heard from fall camp, and I like what the future looks like in terms of incoming recruits. I'm excited to watch this young team grow from the beginning of the season through the end. I really think they can surprise some teams in the Big XII. But they're not going to surprise anyone this week. Alabama is just flat out better across the board.

Also, I know this game is sponsored by Chick-fil-A, but this is really the Muriale's Bowl. Marion County's own Nick Saban against Mon County's Mountaineers. Can someone make a call and get Rocco Muriale on the field to flip the coin?
Alabama 31-13

Michael Carvelli Last Week: -- Season: 0-0 Point Differential: --
This is obviously going to be an extremely tough opener for the Mountaineers and will show a good bit about where this team really is heading. Alabama will prove to be just too much for this improved West Virginia team, and although WVU will find a way to keep it fairly close with a late score, the Crimson Tide will still pick up a win to kick off 2014.
Alabama 34-17

Matt Keller Last Week: -- Season: 0-0 Point Differential: --
This is, in difference to the multitudes, not the worst of match-ups for West Virginia. Alabama's typical power running style - typically well-defended by the odd stack - will still be on display despite new coordinator Lane Kiffin. On offense, the Mountaineers appear to have developed far better continuity and cohesion, and the special teams are solid with experienced, talented kickers. There's certainly a talent gap, and that's what most pundits, and Vegas, are banking their predictions upon. That talent, especially in openers, could come into major play, or could fade away via a series of mental and physical miscues and hesitations. This isn't last season's Tide, much less the ones that preceded it in winning three titles in four years. But it's also not a mid-level major conference foe. If 'Bama isn't quite a top two team, as the rankings delineate, it certainly has top 10 talent. That, in the end, is too much to overcome for a younger team still trying to find its groove in at least two phases.
Alabama 34-20

Tony Dobies Last Week: -- Season: 0-0 Point Differential: --
I've been trying to find a way in which I think WVU wins this game, but there are too many best-case scenarios that would need to take place for the Mountaineers to do it. If they can somehow find a way to keep it close - and maybe not let the Crimson Tide run away with it until the mid-third quarter or later, it could be the best thing for this team (besides an upset of course).
Alabama 37-17

Greg Hunter Last Week: -- Season: 0-0 Point Differential: --
In my opinion, West Virginia is a better football team than it was last year, but that doesn't mean the Mountaineers are ready to knock off Alabama. This isn't a great matchup for WVU's defense, which is built to face the spread offenses of the Big 12 and not the power running attack of the Crimson Tide. If West Virginia could slow down Alabama's ground game and put the play-making burden on the Crimson Tide's inexperienced quarterback, WVU has a chance. But that's a whole lot easier said than done.
Alabama 35-24

Jane Donovan Last Week: -- Season: 0-0 Point Differential: --
And so it begins. The Mountaineers are in Atlanta to engage in apocalyptic battle with the forces of evil, or something along those lines. If the player I spoke with on Wednesday morning is representative of the rest of the team, they are ready, they are pumped, and they believe in themselves. I hope Mountaineer Nation is and does, too.

Yes, this is a tough game. It's an even tougher opener. Yes, WVU is facing local-boy-made-good Nick Saban, and despite the Dominion-Post's attempt, earlier this week, to portray him as St. Nick, he isn't bringing us any presents this weekend. Saban is a ruthless competitor sitting on a very uncomfortable two-game losing streak. He may love West Virginia, but he loves his job and his reputation even more, so he is not going to pull any punches against the Mountaineers.

This leaves me with a dilemma; it is contrary to my nature to pick against my beloved Mountaineers, and it has long been my personal policy that we are 12-0 until someone tells me otherwise. Realistically, though, it would be little short of miraculous for the Blue and Gold to win this game. Of course, if we stick with that apocalyptic analogy, we all know that the forces of good ultimately will overcome the forces of evil, but maybe not quite yet. Most of all, I hope no one gets hurt, including in the ego. We're going to need all hands on deck for the rest of the season.
Alabama 35-17

Jonathan Martin Last Week: -- Season: 0-0 Point Differential: --
There's simply no question, at least to me, that West Virginia is a better football team at this point thanit was at this time last year. The reality is, however, that William & Mary isn't walking through the door on Saturday in Atlanta. Nope. Instead it'll be the Alabama Crimson Tide.

I don't believe the Mountaineers are a 26-point underdog, though. They have a rich history of throwing the first punch, fighting until the end and proving the doubters wrong. I'm just not sure they can win. Expect West Virginia to keep it close, but the Tide flex their muscles in the end to pull away.
Alabama 30-17

Brian Jolliff Last Week: -- Season: 0-0 Point Differential: --
First pick of the year and we are going to start out on the wrong foot. Too much talent and depth for WVU to overcome especially coming off such a disappointing season last year. West Virginia is still in building mode, while Alabama is in steam-rolling mode and if the Mountaineers don't keep their composure, this could turn ugly. Aside from my prediction and what I think will happen in the season opener, I'd be perfectly happy and overjoyed if these guys prove me wrong.
Alabama 49-20

Roger Harvey Last Week: -- Season: 0-0 Point Differential: --
On Tuesday, news broke that Clint Trickett’s first kiss was with Nick Saban’s daughter, I think the Crimson Tide are planning on cooking up some special blitz packages just for the lip locking quarterback.

The talented offensive line for West Virginia will do what they can to fend off the deep talent Alabama has on defense, but it will not be enough. With consistent pressure from Alabama’s defensive front, it will be tough to make some big plays down the field.

I think we will see flashes of talent from transfers Rushel Shell and Shaquile Reddick. Shell will have a total of 100 offensive yards and a touchdown. Reddick will cause trouble for Alabama’s offensive tackles, and will end the day with 2 sacks. In the end, the Crimson Tide wins this game, but it is closer than people think.
Alabama 34-21

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