The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

October 18, 2010

Raising the bar

Could WVU be Top 10 by year’s end?

MORGANTOWN — After a weekend of upsets, West Virginia is now a Top 20 team, but there is a pressing question that one must ask after the Mountaineers landed in the No. 20 spot in the new Associated Press poll and No. 19 in the Coaches Poll:

Are the Mountaineers destined to be a Top 10 team?

Think about it for a minute.

The Mountaineers have one loss, as do eight teams in front of them in the AP poll, while one team, South Carolina, somehow clings to a Top 20 ranking with two losses.

No one is saying the Mountaineers deserve to be among the top teams, which now are Oregon at No. 1, Boise State at No. 2, Oklahoma at No. 3, TCU at No. 4, Auburn at No. 5 and LSU at No. 6, all undefeated.

West Virginia’s loss is to LSU, the No. 6 team in the country in both polls. It was by six points, at LSU, one of college football’s toughest places to play.

Is the difference between the No. 6 team and the No. 19 or 20 team really a six-point home victory?

Certainly, WVU’s defense would make it a Top 10 team. The latest statistics show West Virginia No. 5 in the nation, right behind Texas. The top three are Boise State, TCU and LSU.

If the ability to stop the run makes a team special, well, then West Virginia

must be pretty special, being fourth against the run in the nation. The Mountaineers are the only team to give up only one rushing touchdown this season.

True, the Mountaineer offense has been disappointing and offense always wins over the voters more than defense. That No. 64 total offense rank certainly is a black mark on the team.

But here’s the thing. West Virginia could win out.

There are those who will say they should win out.

Certainly, there are no ranked teams ahead of them on their schedule and whereas it once appeared that their two toughest games may be road trips to Connecticut and Pitt, it’s highly possible now that the toughest games may really be home games against Cincinnati and Rutgers.

What do you do as a pollster with an 11-1 West Virginia team, especially if the offense comes to life and Noel Devine gets untracked to go with a solid possession passing game?

Does that turn the Mountaineers into a Top 10 team?

Or is the perception that the Big East is a second tier conference so strong that no one out of it this year could crack in among the college football elite?

The climb up the rankings out of the Big East is a steep one because each week it seems the voters believe you are playing an inferior opponent, whereas the Big Ten, for example, has four teams in the Top 12 and the SEC has three in the Top 7.

Of course, some of those teams along the way are going to lose another game or two simply because they must play each other, so that could work in West Virginia’s favor.

The key, it would appear, is for the Mountaineers to find some offense soon so that they can increase their margin of victory and draw some attention to themselves nationally.

Surely, the table is set for a strong run if the offense comes to life, but the ultimate goal is not a Top 10 finish but, instead, a Big East championship, which would put the Mountaineers into a BCS bowl against a team it could gain some prestige and respect from beating.

If they could do that, it would propel them into the Top 10 and probably silence the critics of Coach Bill Stewart ... at least until opening day next year.

E-mail Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com.

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