MORGANTOWN - It will look like the Big East standings have been turned upside down Saturday when West Virginia and Cincinnati meet.
The Mountaineers and Bearcats have won or shared six league titles between them since 2003, but see themselves in a four-way tie for last place these days with identical 1-2 conference records.
''Cincinnati is a team like us that had a drop here and maybe a missed assignment there,'' West Virginia coach Bill Stewart said. ''They have lost a couple of games that some may say they shouldn't have, as some may say that we have. It will be an interesting matchup.''
The Mountaineers players can't wait to play a game, as they had a bye week to sit and think about back-to-back losses to Syracuse and Connecticut.
''Guys are eager to get this monkey off their back,'' linebacker J.T. Thomas said. ''Nobody likes this feeling. The urgency to get a win is there. I think the team is aware that this is a must win for our program. We definitely want to get it going in the right direction and get a win this Saturday.''
Cincinnati, which features former Mountaineers assistant coach Butch Jones and is quarterbacked by former Steubenville Big Red standout Zach Collaros, won each of the last two Big East titles. It has also beaten West Virginia two straight years after winning just one of the first 16 games in the series.
Bearcats vs. 'Eers
Cincinnati at West Virginia
- ?The Line: West Virginia by 6.
- ?The Series: West Virginia leads, 14-3-1.
- ?Television: Big East Network/ESPN3.com
(Mike Gleason, Play-By-Play; John Congemi, Analyst, Eamon McAnaney, Sideline); Radio: Mountaineer Sports Network (Tony Caridi, Play-by-Play, Dwight Wallace, Analyst, Hoppy Kercheval, Host, Jed Drenning, Sideline)
- ?Notes: UC staffers Jahmile Addae (RB), Milo Austin (director of player develop.), Dave Lawson (director of football strength & conditioning), Brandon Myles (Offensvie Assistant), and Michael Szerszen (assistant director football strength & conditioning) played or coached at West Virginia. ... Cincinnati kicker Jacob Rogers recently became the school's all-time scoring leader against USF and has 317 career points. ... .WVU is the only FBS school to not allow more than 21 points in a game in 2010.
''We look forward to playing them,'' Stewart said. ''They have gotten us the last two years, so I hope our crowd is here in full force because we are going to need you.''
While offense has clearly been WVU's problem - the Mountaineers rank 67th in the nation - Cincinnati has had no such issues.
The Bearcats lead the Big East in total offense and are 26th nationally.
During the last five games, UC is averaging 478 yards of offense and 29.2 points per game.
''It is going to be a real challenge,'' Stewart said. ''Our defense has not seen an offense like this. They have some skill and have the No. 1 (D.J. Woods) and 2 (Armon Binns) receivers in the league.''
Collaros, who did not play in the Bearcats' last game because of a knee injury, leads the league in everything - passing efficiency(159.166), total offense (285.4), passing yards (1,918), and passing yards per game (274.0).
''Collaros is one of those players who just makes plays,'' Stewart said. ''I don't know how injured he is, but I do know what kind of competitor he is. They had to hide his helmet from him a few weeks ago.''
Jones said Collaros would likely play, as his knee has improved greatly in the last 10 days.
Thomas, who joked that he has kept an eye on fellow linebacker Branko Busick (and Big Red grad) this week, making sure he's not giving away any secrets to his old pal, knows what kinds of issues playing against a quarterback like Collaros can arise.
''Zach Collaros is a problem,'' Thomas said. ''Anybody that can run the ball as tough as he does and actually throw it pretty well can be a problem for any defense. So we're going out and try and contain him as best as possible.''
All of this offense is the specialty of Jones, who was the receiver's coach at West Virginia under Rich Rodriguez in 2005-06. He followed former Cincy coach Brian Kelly both at Central Michigan and Cincinnati and is 30-18 in his career.
''Butch is exactly who you would want your sister to marry, who you would want to coach your son and who you would want as your best friend,'' Stewart said with the risk of a recruit hearing it. ''That is the kind of man Butch Jones is.''
Jones also talked about the friendships he made, including Stewart, while in Morgantown and how that stop made him a better coach.
Though he wasn't here long, he did have a hand in recruiting some of today's Mountaineers stars, including slot receiver Jock Sanders and Thomas.
''I still talk to that man,'' said Sanders, who exchanged numbers with Jones during the Big East's media day. ''He was one of the coaches that really made that push for me to come to West Virginia.''
Said Thomas: ''Coach Jones is just a really good guy. You meet people in this world and you realize, hey, this person is a genuine good person. And that's the kind of guy Coach Jones is.''