Saturday’s football game at 20th-ranked West Virginia admittedly is the most important Brian Kelly has coached since taking up the Cincinnati reins last year.

That’s what he said Monday on the Big East’s weekly teleconference, considering where the Bearcats (6-2, 2-1 Big East) are in he conference standings and what’s at stake.

Kelly guided UC to a 10-3 record, including a bowl victory, in 2007. One of the losses was to WVU by just 28-23 at Cincinnati.

“I think any game is a huge game where you are competing for a Big East championship and are still in the hunt,” he said. “You’re absolutely right (to questioner) because of the implications.

“Our goals are to win the championship, so this week would be the most important game that I’ve coached up to this point because we still control our own destiny. I don’t know of any other way to look at it.”

Kelly said from the beginning of preseason practice, he told his players that the road to the Big East title goes through Morgantown. “So we’ve got to go down there and beat them,” he added.

“I think our guys understand the important of Saturday game down there.”

As the only school still undefeated in Big East play, the Mountaineers also know that they can control their own destiny. By sweeping the final four games, WVU would capture the league title (or a share of it) for the sixth time in the last seven seasons.

West Virginia is 6-2 overall and 3-0 atop the conference standings.

Kelly is pleased with his team’s progress. It is coming off an impressive 24-10 win over previously ranked South Florida. That earned the Bearcats a big boost for the school’s football program.

“There are a lot of positives from being on Thursday night national television,” he noted. “You obviously have to have some success.”

Kelly still thinks West Virginia is the team to beat in the Big East. He’s not surprised by its sputtering season’s start.

“They got through adversities early on,” he observed. “It kinda settled them into a consistent pattern. I knew they were talented enough to, well-coached and that it was just a matter of time.

“Anytime you have a new head coach and a new offensive coordinator. It’s going to take more time. When you are a conference champion, you carry with you as meter and pride that you want to develop.

“So I knew that when the smoke cleared, West Virginia was going to be right there...”

Kelly said the Bearcats must go on the road believing that they can play better. He thinks they must play better than they have in order to come out of Morgantown with a big “W.”

“The Mountaineers are getting better and better because they obviously have a clear understanding of what you’re trying to accomplish,” he said. “They’re starting to get used to the new system.

“They’re more consistent. Now that the offense is coming together, it’s a very good football team again.”

Recommended for you