Time to go
Once upon a time, way back in April, I went on a golf trip to Birmingham, Alabama. There were eight of us on this trip, six from the state of Maryland, but there were six who regularly attend West Virginia University football games. I mention this because while we were in Alabama we encountered numerous Auburn football fans. Of course Auburn is West Virginia's opponent in this Thursday night's ESPN football game in Morgantown.
Way back in April it was fun to yuck it up with the Auburn fans. That's because they were supposed to have a team which would contend for the SEC title this year. They knew West Virginia was loaded and the game had all the makings of a showdown of two top five teams. Auburn at 7-0 visiting 6-0 West Virginia, what a night it would be. More than a few guys we encountered said they were making the trip to West Virginia. I even gave out my number to one foursome we met so they could tailgate with us.
Auburn fans, you see, at least most of the ones I can speak of, are very cordial. There was no in your face, we are going to kick the crap out of you stuff. It was friendly chit chat, good watering hole stuff.
For the record,l'Bama fans were around too, but seemed much less engaging than the Tiger fans. Perhaps had West Virginia been scheduled to play the Crimson Tide this year, they too would have opened up.
Well, since April the high expectations of both teams have been shattered. Auburn has lost three of its last four games and will come to Morgantown with a 4-3 record. They are just 2-3 in the SEC which includes a head scratching 3-2 win over Mississippi.
To say West Virginia's hopes have been shattered may be an over statement. Certainly the realization that the team was dramatically overrated from the outset has taken a toll, but there is still plenty on the table for the Mountaineers. WVU is still undefeated in league play and the BCS carrot is still dangling in front of them. The problem is, up to now, there has been little evidence to suggest that West Virginia is capable of getting to the level they need to be on offense to make a run at the Big East title.
They can silence the doubters Thursday. Auburn brings a rugged defense to Mountaineer Field, but it will also bring its own struggling offense. West Virginia's defense has shown progress all year, but the offense has struggled mightily. Much of that can be attributed to quarterback Pat White being dinged, but what is hardest to figure out is the relative ineffectiveness of the running game. This game looks like one which may be decided by defensive scores.
Even a loss Thursday won't keep WVU from making a BCS bowl, but losing to a mediocre Auburn team won't provide the jolt the Mountaineers need. This team needs a shot of confidence in the worst way. A win over the Tigers is a must if that is going to happen.