At stake is a ton of money, national respect, and for the Scarlet Knights, another chance to achieve one of many in a series of firsts - this time, an outright Big East Championship and a berth in a lucrative BCS game.
While the spread attack, which has caused countless problems for opposing Defensive Coordinators all year (with South Florida being the lone exception) looming, a mightier concern for WVU may indeed be the mental state of their Mountaineers. A nearly certain bet to represent the Big East in a BCS game and a likely candidate to compete for the national championship at the dawn of this collegiate football year, the Mountaineers faced a tough setback at Louisville several weeks ago. Following that setback, rumors began to swirl about the impending status of WVU's highly sought after Head Coach, and though West Virginia got back on the winning track, the mental focus required to stay in a game and prep mindset sure seemed lacking last week. Now, amidst rampant reports that Rich Rodriguez is all but signed, sealed and delivered to Alabama it remains unclear what - if any - impact this has already had on this week's preparations in Morgantown. The most recent reports, however, indicate that yesterday's news citing WVU athletic department (unnamed) sources may have jumped the gun and that, in fact, Rodriguez has no intentions of heading anywhere in the near or long-term future.
"I plan on being at West Virginia the rest of my career, so I don't know whose sources you are quoting. Who is even making this stuff up? Where is this coming from? How can they say that?" asked Rodriguez. "I have not even talked to anybody in the athletic department this week. There is no truth to that whatsoever. The only people I've talked to have been my coaches, and the only thing we've talked about is our normal game week plan – about offense, defense, special teams, what Rutgers is going to do and recruiting. That's it. Those are the only people I've talked to, so I don't know where this is coming from. I did talk to Ed Pastilong (WVU's director of athletics) on Monday. He called me about bowl scenarios and a situation in the Big East regarding non-qualifiers. He asked me if anybody (other schools) had call, and I said no. That's it, so that's what I'm talking about; this is not responsible journalism. It's crazy."
The concern about Saturday's Morgantown showdown isn't so much about whether Rodriguez stays or leaves as much as how much of a distraction all the speculation has been until this point.
For Rutgers fans, this may prove to be just another of an endless planetary alignments as they head into Mountaineer Field as double digit underdogs.
The vaunted Mountaineer offense loses much of its potency without either of its two-headed monster in the line-up. That much was evident in the WVU loss to Louisville as star tailback Steve Slaton (147.4 ypg - 2nd nationally) was hampered with a second half injury, forcing Pat White (98 ypg - 20th nationally) into one-man star mode. The presence of both players - Pat White and Steve Slaton - makes others around them better and gives the WVU offense a myriad of additional options, including more effective use of bruiser FB Owen Schmitt. However, White has been sidelined this week following an injured toe and ankle and has missed significant practice time. In a game of this magnitude, nobody should expect White to sit out, but if he is not be close to 100%, the speed of the Rutgers defense may come into play even more than in previous games. RS FR Jarrett Brown (Palm Beach Lakes HS, FL) will step in to replace White if necessary.
WVU's offensive repertoire is centered around their highly proficient running game. The Rutgers Football defense - currently #18 in the NCAA in this category - and especially its front four, will face a significant size disadvantage when going up against the WVU OL: a size difference of roughly 40-pounds. In a game where speed will likely be the determining factor, this size differential will not cause a major impact in the outcome. Though Rutgers has yielded a shade over 98 ypg on the ground on the season (the per game average of dual-threat speed demon Pat White), and has limited 5 squads to less than the century mark, the Rutgers Football defense has not yielded less than 100 since an October showdown at Pitt.
Regardless of tonight's outcome, Rutgers Football will return to postseason play following the 2006 regular season. This marks the first time in school history where RU will achieve this feat.
Rutgers Football News
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- University officials deserve credit for their patience with Rutgers Coach Greg Schiano, a New Jersey native who has led the up-and-coming college football program to unprecedented heights is in his sixth season with the Scarlet Knights. More: Rutgers has golden opportunity.
The Rutgers football team has plenty riding on its game with West Virginia (7:45 p.m. today, ESPN), needing a win to capture the school's first-ever Big East title and Bowl Championship Series berth. More: Stakes high for Rutgers.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- This is the place where tonight Rutgers will reach for what once was the unthinkable ... the place where the Scarlet Knights, ranked 115th out of the 117 Division 1 teams in the country less than a decade ago, will seek the right to go where no other Rutgers team has ever gone. More: Mountain Climbers.
Perhaps the Rutgers football program has entered the Fifth Dimension, as the musical group by that name once chorused, "When the moon is in the Seventh House, and Jupiter aligns with Mars . . .'' More: An Evolution of Destiny.
Here we go again. The Rutgers University football field will be the talk of the state this week as it prepares for the latest version of "the biggest game in team history." More: Rutgers faces its biggest test (again) this Saturday.
West Virginia never expected it would have to play a spoiler's role in the Big East title chase. And the Mountaineers certainly didn't expect the team they'd be trying to stop would be Rutgers. More: Only Mountaineers Stand in Rutgers' Way.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. How much sweeter can it get? Rutgers has assured itself of the best season in program history. A bowl berth was wrapped up weeks ago. A Top 10 ranking was accomplished. The Empire State Building was bathed in scarlet red. More: Moving Mountains.
PISCATAWAY, N.J. - Judging by many of their public statements this week, Rutgers players might as well be preparing for an early-season nonconference game instead of the biggest game of their lives. More: Scarlet Knights ignore hype.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - The prospect of a chilly evening in Morgantown isn't nearly enough to rattle Greg Schiano. More: WVU-Rutgers: A Coaching Challenge.
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Aspirations of a national championship, two words they recited to break spring huddles, are a month gone. Their BCS-bowl desires appear fleeting, pinned to hopes that other ranked teams falter today, including host Louisville. More: WVU has lots of motivation for Rutgers.
The stakes don't get any higher in a regular-season Big East game. Rutgers can claim its first BCS berth and conference title in school history. More: #15 WVU to face #13 Rutgers.
West Virginia quarterback Pat White is more than capable of winning a game with his arm -- but only when an effective running game sets up opportunities for him to strike through the air. More: Rutgers-West Virginia Gameday.
Rutgers has already had a memorable season, reaching 10 wins for just the second time in program history. West Virginia was stunned last weekend by upstart South Florida, meaning Rutgers will claim the conference's BCS bid — and a likely invite to the Orange Bowl opposite the ACC champ — with a win in Morgantown. More: Rutgers Looks to cap a magical Season.
Greg Schiano remembers it well. Who could forget? It was early November in 2001. Rutgers, in the midst of yet another losing campaign, traveled to West Virginia. The Scarlet Knights left on the short end of an 80-7 defeat. More: 80-7 just a memory.
PISCATAWAY -- Rutgers football coach Greg Schiano is expected to be contacted by the University of Miami on Monday regarding his interest in the Hurricanes' vacant coaching position, an official with knowledge of the situation said Thursday.More: Miami will gauge Schiano's interest Monday.
I remain skeptical of the repeated saying by national "insider" types that Greg Schiano is destined for a move south. Maybe I'm naive. But I'm really not buying it. More: Look for Schiano to Stay Put.
Rutgers coach Greg Schiano will lead his team to its first Bowl Championship Series berth with a victory over West Virginia this weekend. He'll also pocket $200,000 in bonuses. More: Rutgers' Schiano gets $200,000 in bonuses.
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