West Virginia University’s football team is not going to win many beauty contests for its performance this season, but the team is still alive for a Bowl Championship Series bowl berth in what is likely to be its final season in the Big East Conference. West Virginia kept its BCS aspirations alive by edging Pitt 21-20 last Friday night. That win and a Cincinnati win over Syracuse on Saturday has set up the following scenario.
It is a simple two-step process for WVU to reach a BCS bowl. The Mountaineers have to defeat South Florida this Thursday night and then wait for Cincinnati to defeat Connecticut on Saturday. That is the only way West Virginia gets into the BCS and even that is not guaranteed.
The above scenario creates a three-way tie with Louisville, WVU and Cincinnati all with 5-2 records in the Big East. The first tiebreaker is the record against the other teams. All three would be 1-1, so the next tiebreaker is the highest ranked team in the BCS standings. Entering this week WVU is 23rd, Cincinnati 30th and Louisville 41st. With just one team playing this weekend that is ranked between the Bearcats and Mountaineers, it would require some serious shenanigans among the voters for the Bearcats to leapfrog WVU.
Of course with WVU being the highest rated Big East team in the BCS standings at 23rd, the calls will continue for the Big East to relinquish their automatic BCS bid. That won’t likely bother many folks in Morgantown as that developing issue has been addressed by the WVU administration by saying goodbye to the Big East and accepting an invitation to play in the Big 12 Conference.
In any event, someone has to go to a BCS game from the Big East and it may as well be WVU as anyone else. For a while last Friday it looked like Pitt would eliminate West Virginia from BCS consideration. Pitt led by 14-0 early in the contest. West Virginia continued to play poorly on special teams with shanked punts on the punt team and mishandled punts on the punt receiving team. WVU was getting nothing done in its running game with a total of -2 yards at halftime.
Things got better after halftime. The running game went for more than 100 yards in the second half. The defense has been solid in the second half in three of the last four games. Ten sacks against the Panthers is a good evening. Punter Corey Smith even won Big East special teams player of the week for his kicks after he replaced the struggling Mike Molinari.
WVU has struggled at South Florida over the years and this Thursday looks like more of the same. Bulls’ quarterback B. J. Daniels did not play last week against Louisville and will probably be a game time decision this week. Either way, the key would seem to be the play of WVU’s offensive line against their defensive front. That boils down to their strength against our weakness.
Opponents have had a great deal of success rushing WVU quarterback Geno Smith into hurried throws and mistakes. Ditto the running game. We saw some improvement in the line play in the second half last Friday with the insertion of Quinton Spain and Curtis Feigt. Those two have been named starters this week by coach Dana Holgorsen. That’s 650 pounds of humanity that could come up big for the Mountaineers.