College football parity ?
If you are a West Virginia University football fan, the two weekends of football following the Mountaineers' loss to South Florida have been bittersweet.
On the one hand three teams which were ranked higher than WVU when the Mountaineers were ranked fifth have lost. Had the Mountaineers taken care of business that Friday night in Tampa they would almost certainly be ranked second behind LSU with an excellent chance to control their destiny with regard to an appearance in the BCS Championship game.
Of course that did not happen, but what has transpired since has provided the Mountaineers with more than a little hope to climb back into the picture. Eleven days ago the mere thought of WVU getting back into the title hunt seemed ridiculous. Then Oklahoma and Florida lost. This past weekend USC, nearly a six touchdown favorite, was beaten by Stanford. All this has WVU back in the top 10 at eighth in the coaches poll and ninth in the sportswriters poll. With a lot of football still to be played, there is plenty of reason to believe the Mountaineers can at least get back into BCS bowl contention, if not a shot at the title game.
OK, the latter scenario is an extremely long shot, but 11 days ago it was an extremely long shot that WVU would have a second chance. Of course there are still some unbeaten teams the Mountaineers will need to have lose. California, Ohio State, Boston College and South Florida trail LSU in the polls. Then there are Oklahoma and South Carolina each with one loss which currently are ahead of the Mountaineers in the coaches poll.
Of those seven teams one has to figure four or five will lose at least another game and that would put WVU back in the BCS bowl picture. To get to second in the BCS standings will require some special events to occur. The most important thing for WVU though is for the Mountaineers to win the rest of their games.
Winning out will not be easy. When the schedule came out most looked at it and figured a road game at Rutgers or the home encounter with Louisville would be the Mountaineers' biggest tests. I always feared USF, but now Cincinnati is unbeaten and has emerged as a team of consequence. The Bearcats went to New Jersey last weekend to hand Rutgers its second home loss in a row, so the November 17 game in Cincinnati could be huge.
To get there unscathed though will be tough. Following this weekend's open date the Mountaineers host a 4-2 Mississippi State team, then travel to Rutgers before hosting dangerous Louisville. By then the BCS situation should be more clear. One thing that is clear is that WVU's bowl possibilities outside of a BCS berth aren't all that attractive.
Before the emergence of the Big East football conference in the last two seasons the conference was forced to settle for a less attractive bowl package when the deals were done in 2005. Because of the way the agreements were done it is almost certain there will be no Big East representative in the Gator Bowl this year. The most attractive spots available to Big East teams this year are bowls in Charlotte and El Paso.
Of course the league champ goes to a BCS bowl and there the two at large BCS bids, one of which WVU would be in great shape to receive if the Mountaineers can finish the regular season at 12-1.