West Virginia coach Bill Stewart has spent the week preparing his team for more than a game.
Death Valley, also known as Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La., is among college football’s most raucous and intimidating settings. Legend has it that it once got so loud that seismographic instruments on campus registered vibrations similar to a small earthquake.
The Mountaineers, shaping up to be the Big East Conference favorites, visit Death Valley tonight to face Southeastern Conference power Louisiana State.
Night games can be especially nasty on visitors. The Bayou Bengals’ faithful have had all day to get revved up for the game, so to speak.
“We’re going to bond and have that love that only a team can have. We know it will be loud. We know it will be hostile, and that’s OK,” Stewart said.
While the reputation of LSU’s home field is grand, the Tigers have not exactly been a cash cow as a home favorite during coach Les Miles’ tenure.
LSU is 15-23 against the spread since 2004 as a home favorite, getting the money for its backers only 39 percent of the time in that spot.
The Mountaineers’ 3-3-5 defense can be perplexing for teams not accustomed to the different look, and LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson has averaged only 120 yards passing through three games. Sooner or later, that lack of an air arsenal will spell trouble for the Tigers.
Although money has come in on the favorite this week, take West Virginia as a 10-point underdog.
Six more plays for today (home team in CAPS):
■ Bowling Green-MICHIGAN (Over 58) — Heisman Trophy front-runner Denard Robinson should post huge numbers against this Mid-American Conference defense. The Wolverines’ defense, meanwhile, has allowed a total of 61 points in the past two games.
■ PENN STATE (-13½) over Temple — Former Penn State assistant Al Golden has turned the Owls into contenders for the MAC title. But Penn State will probably want to make sure the Owls know their place in the Pennsylvania pecking order.
■ NOTRE DAME (+4½) over Stanford — If not for an injury to quarterback Dayne Crist in their second game and a fake field goal in overtime last week, the Irish could be sitting at 3-0 and ranked in the top 15. Off two narrow losses, Notre Dame has covered four of its past five as a ‘dog against a ranked team and is too good to pass up getting points.
■ TEXAS (-15) over UCLA — It has been 13 years since the “Rout 66” game in Austin in which the Bruins thrashed the John Mackovic-coached Longhorns by an embarrassing 66-3 margin. This UCLA offense, however, would probably struggle to score 66 points in half a season against this Longhorns’ defense.
■ Southern Mississippi (-3½) over LOUISIANA TECH — Predictably, Louisiana Tech players have been slow to adjust to Sonny Dykes’ pass-first offense, a 180-degree shift from the philosophy of former coach Derek Dooley. Southern Miss’ veteran defense might be the best that the struggling Bulldogs have faced.
■ FLORIDA ATLANTIC (-9½) over North Texas — Riley Dodge, the son of North Texas coach Todd Dodge, was shifted to wide receiver after last season because of a shoulder injury that sapped his arm strength. The Mean Green’s injury woes — their top two quarterbacks are among the players lost for the season — have put the younger Dodge back under center and decimated the team’s depth.
Last week: 5-2 against the spread
Texas-based handicapper Paul Stone of Vegassportsauthority.com is providing college football analysis for the Las Vegas Review-Journal.