Quarterback Geno Smith passed for a career high 352 yards as West Virginia dominated Rutgers in a 35-14 win on Saturday. The game was not nearly as close as the score indicated, as the Mountaineers kept Rutgers in the game for three quarters by virtue of failing to score on three possessions inside the Scarlet Knights 10 yard line.
The win set up an ironic scenario where the measure of success of the 2010 football season then depended upon the outcome of a game in which West Virginia was not even on the field. The BCS berth from the Big East Conference came down to whether South Florida could defeat Connecticut on Saturday night.
All of which made it a very frustrating evening for Mountaineer fans, as we were teased right to the end. South Florida makes a late comeback and has the ball on the 5 yard line with a little over a minute remaining, down by only 3 points, and with momentum on their side So what do they do? They try two fade patterns (gosh, I hate that play) which were basically throws out of bounds to the cheerleaders. Instead of aggressively trying to win the game, the Bulls played to make sure they got to overtime. But as we all now know, they never got there as the Huskies stole the BCS bid on a 52-yard field goal with 17 seconds remaining.
While on my sour grapes rant, allow me to express an opinion about how the Big East Conference determines its BCS bowl participant.
When two or more teams are tied for the league championship, the BCS berth is awarded to the team that prevailed in a head-to-head matchup with the other tied team(s). Under the existing rule, Connecticut thus wins the berth because they defeated both West Virginia and Pittsburgh, with whom they were tied.
That's how other leagues do it, too. But the Big East is different from the higher profile conferences such as the SEC and Big Ten. Typically the teams at the top of those leagues are very strong and credibility is not an issue.
But the Big East is a different matter. It is a league that often has its credibility as a BCS participant challenged, and accordingly the conference needs to have a tiebreaker which assures that it sends it strongest representative. A team's entire body of work, including nonconference games, should be considered.
Connecticut is rewarded for narrowly beating the Mountaineers and Panthers on their home field, but is not penalized for having lost to the worst team in the league or performing miserably in its nonconference schedule. Meanwhile, the Mountaineers won 4 of 5 games out of conference, including a win over a good Maryland team, and with its only loss coming in a close game on the road against ranked LSU.
We can all agree that West Virginia was not an elite football team in 2010. But any objective observer would conclude that when looking at the entire season the Mountaineers were the best team in the Big East, and were the higher ranked conference team at the end if the season. But instead the league will send to the BCS a team which lost to Louisville by 26, Michigan by 20, and to Temple and Rutgers. Give me a break.
WVU has now finished 5-2 in Big East play five consecutive seasons. Doesn't sound bad, until one is reminded that in 8 of those 10 losses the Mountaineers were favored to win.
And can we dispense with hearing all about WVU being "Big East Champions"? We finished in a 3-way tie in a mediocre league and didn't get the BCS bid. That doesn't seem like a "championship" to me.
West Virginia will play North Carolina State in the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando, Florida, on December 28. A nice bowl game, but not where champions go.