West Virginia, the preseason favorite to win the conference, sat tied with Syracuse, Connecticut, Louisville and Pittsburgh for third place with a 1-1 conference record before the Panthers beat UConn. The Orange, obviously, have a tiebreaker over the Mountaineers, and WVU has one over Connecticut. South Florida, which was picked to finish third in the league, is all the way in last place after a 0-3 start in conference play.
So what does this mean for West Virginia? Well, it means little to nothing at this point in the season. Though, that changes as the weeks go on.
The Mountaineers technically control their own destiny in all situations except for Syracuse, who has that nasty tiebreaker.
Cincinnati is the lone undefeated team, but if WVU would win out the rest of the way, including a victory over the Bearcats, then the Mountaineers would win the Big East crown. That is, if Syracuse loses again.
Here we are again Mountaineer fans – in a situation where WVU doesn't control its fate and will have to hang on at every moment and hope that the other seven teams start to knock each other out of contention.
For the fourth straight season, West Virginia has been unable to take control of the situation at hand and deliver a knockout blow early in the year. And with perhaps the most talented teams still left in WVU's way, it's only going to get harder.
There's no doubt in my mind that West Virginia is the most talented team in the Big East. It's not even close. There's no other program with the likes of Geno Smith, Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, Bruce Irvin, etc. on its roster.
WVU also has the best offensive and defensive schemes in the conference. No team in the country can boast a combination of the air raid and 3-3-5 stack, something that head coach Dana Holgorsen has pointed out in the past as a key advantage for the Mountaineers.
Yes, the advantages are there this season. The results, however, have not been. At 5-2, the Mountaineers need to, as former head coach Bill Stewart used to say, make hay.
There needs to be quick answers for the toughness and execution issues that shouldn't be plaguing this roster halfway through the 2011 season.
Rutgers isn't going to hold back now that they saw what Syracuse was able to do in the trenches to WVU.
Saturday's game can be a statement for the Mountaineers – one sent to the rest of the opponents on their schedule that WVU won't give up.
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