Following back-to-back losses to Syracuse and Connecticut the West Virginia University Football Team was reeling near the bottom of the Big East Conference standings. The Mountaineers already had two losses looking up at Pitt, a team that had yet to lose a conference game. West Virginia’s offense had become anemic in its previous two losses and the vultures were circling the Mountaineer football program and its head coach Bill Stewart.
The Mountaineers had over two weeks since the loss to UCONN to ponder their situation as they prepared for Cincinnati. No matter how one looked at it, the game against the Bearcats was a very important game for the players, coaches and fans. A third consecutive loss would likely set in motion a chain of events that would lead to some type of coaching changes. Perhaps a major overhaul.
It remains to be seen just how the final script for the season will be authored, but last Thursday night West Virginia’s fortunes rose significantly when UCONN upset Pitt to give the Panthers their first conference loss and breathe new life into the Mountaineer’s season. The Pitt loss gave West Virginia significant control of their quest for the Big East championship. For starters, it meant if WVU could win its four remaining games, they would be assured of beating Pitt in a head to head tiebreaker for the conference title.
The Mountaineers served notice last Saturday that they aren’t done yet. WVU quarterback Geno Smith threw four first half touchdown passes to take the Mountaineers to a 30-0 halftime lead over Cincinnati en route to a 37-10 rout of the Bearcats. For one game the offense played like the unit many thought they would be all season. They will need to continue to play at that level to make the run to a championship. That would include winning at Louisville this Saturday, at Pitt the following Friday and in the season finale at home against Rutgers on December 4.
That much we know, but WVU still needs both Syracuse and UCONN to lose because those two teams also control their own destiny and each has a win over WVU, thus the head to head tiebreaker. Even if WVU were to run the table one of those last two losses could loom large in determining who goes to the BCS Bowl. The good news is UCONN plays at Syracuse this Saturday so one of those teams will have three losses. The bad news is if Syracuse wins, the Orange will finish conference play with a 5-2 record since Saturday is Syracuse’s final conference game.
So, if you are a West Virginia fan, how do you want this to play out? Pitt has the clear path to the championship and BCS berth. If the Panthers win out, they are 6-1, game over. Obviously, WVU has to win out. If they do that, the Mountaineers get an advantage over Pitt. Ideally, UCONN and Syracuse each need a third loss, so UCONN beating Syracuse this Saturday would be good. Mainly because UCONN would still have to beat Cincy at home and South Florida on the road to finish at 5-2. Two games the Huskies could lose.
If two teams are tied for first, the winner of the head to head regular season matchup prevails. In a three-way tie, a good possibility right now, the teams are put in a mini-conference to break the tie. If that doesn’t break the tie the highest ranked team in the BCS standings goes to the BCS. Connecticut wins the mini conference tiebreaker against WVU and Pitt in the 5-2 record scenario, so WVU fans may want to see the Huskies lose this weekend. Tough call though, because this week is the last chance for Syracuse to get their third loss. UCONN could easily lose at USF, or even at home to Cincy.
Should Pitt, WVU and Syracuse be in a three-way tie at 5-2 the tiebreaker would be the highest rated team in the BCS standings. Nothing guaranteed about that, but WVU would be in very good shape at 9-3 overall and coming off of three straight wins. Plus, Syracuse still has a non-conference game with Boston College that could affect their BCS standing.
To further confuse matters, USF still plays host to Pitt and UCONN. If they win those games the Bulls are sitting at 5-2, so the Bulls are still very much involved at this point. Syracuse would have the three-way mini conference tiebreaker against WVU and USF. So, even though the conference may be less than stellar on the field this year, the season ending matchups could prove to be very interesting. If you really want some brainteasers, check out the possibilities of 4-3 records being tied for first.