The dominoes continue to fall the way West Virginia University's football team needs them to. Last Thursday Rutgers beat previously unbeaten South Florida. That loss by USF means the Mountaineers have already climbed past the Bulls in the latest BCS rankings. The loss dropped the Bulls from second to 10th. The Mountaineers, coming off a 38-13 win over Mississippi State, moved from ninth to seventh.
Perhaps even more importantly both USF and WVU each have one loss in Big East play. The conference champion gets an automatic berth in a BCS bowl. Of course a spot in the title game remains a possibility, as does an at large invitation to a BCS bowl, but the best course of action for the Mountaineers is to win the league outright. Providing West Virginia can win the rest of their games they will still need another USF loss in conference to claim the crown.
The key here now though is WVU winning the rest of their games. Trying to handicap the Big East has become impossible. West Virginia was the overwhelming pre season favorite, but lost its first conference game to underrated South Florida. Rutgers, also highly regarded, has lost unexpectedly to Maryland and Cincinnati. Of course the Bearcats had emerged as the league's surprise team only to fall back to back to struggling Louisville, the league's most disappointing team, and Pitt, a team everyone was beating.
It is becoming clear that teams in the Big East can rise to the occasion. Rutgers suffered a couple tough losses, but now look like the team they were projected to be. That is not good news for the Mountaineers who must travel to New Jersey this Saturday to play the Scarlet Knights.
WVU has also been a tough team to figure out. In Saturday's game the Mountaineers were ahead 31-0 just one play into the second quarter. One touchdown in the remaining three quarters is all the team could muster. West Virginia can pile up rushing yards, but there are some times when they can't get the tough yards inside.
That could be an indication of the offensive line taking longer to develop than expected. There are many opinions regarding that issue. It bears watching, but with the talent behind that line, they can take a little more time.
Then there are some who are still waiting for the passing game to expand. The tosses to the flat where Darius Reynaud, Steve Slaton, Owen Schmitt and others catch the ball and run are effective, but the offense would be so much more dynamic if the Mountaineers could complete more passes 10 to 20 yards downfield. Just what is holding them back is the question.
Pat White has the arm, but does he have the vision? Are the receivers getting open? Perhaps the coach simply feels the risks involved in that type of passing game aren't worth taking, and he may be correct. Really, the only loss was a game where WVU moved the ball all night, but continually turned it over.
Anyway, the ride becomes more interesting this Saturday.