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WVU in similar spot as last season

MORGANTOWN, W.VA. -- This seems familiar.

West Virginia, the preseason Big East favorite, is 2-2 in conference after its 38-35 loss to Louisville on Saturday. The Mountaineers don't control their own destiny and have fallen victim to the topsy-turvy nature of what coach Dana Holgorsen called "the most competitive conference I've been in, period."

Even with losses to Syracuse and Louisville, the Mountaineers have an outside chance to win the Big East.

"Everybody knows the Big East is like a full-season gauntlet," senior defensive end Julian Miller said. "Everybody has a chance of winning it. We just have to go out and play the next three games."

Last season, West Virginia started 1-2 in conference before winning its final four games by a combined score of 124-44 and finishing in a three-way tie for the Big East crown.

The Mountaineers begin their road to redemption this weekend against Cincinnati, which leads the Big East.

"We can only go forward," junior quarterback Geno Smith said. "This is about as low as it gets for me. I hate to lose."

A new face

True freshman linebacker Jared Barber saw his first significant action at middle linebacker Saturday. He finished with two tackles.

"It's nerve-racking being a freshman and stuff," Barber said, "but you just have to go out there make a play and not really think about it."

Barber has been in competition with redshirt freshman Jewone Snow, who started against Louisville.

"(Barber's) a true freshman that's been doing a good job in practice," Holgorsen said. "We put him out there based on probably not being extremely happy with some of the other people."

Pressure cooker

West Virginia's pass rush showed some life Saturday, helping to hold mobile Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in check.

The Mountaineers recorded four sacks, including two by senior defensive end Bruce Irvin on back-to-back plays in the first quarter. It's a good sign from a defense that had 10 sacks through the first eight games.

"That's one thing we've really tried to work on in practice and this whole second half of the season," said Miller, who also had a half-sack. "Hopefully we'll be able to rev it up and get more going in these next three games."

Starks out

Senior receiver Brad Starks has been ruled out for Saturday's game against Cincinnati. He went down against Louisville after making his only reception of the game on West Virginia's last drive of the first half.

"I've been told he's out," Holgorsen said. "Now whether it requires surgery or he's not going to be ready to go for the next three games, I can't answer that for you right now, but he's going to be out."

Additional Information:

MOUNTAINEERS: A LOOK AHEAD

West Virginia (6-3, 2-2 Big East)

Next opponent: Cincinnati (7-1, 3-0)

Time and place: Noon Saturday, Paul Brown Stadium

Scouting report: This will be a matchup of two of the top offenses in the Big East. West Virginia is the conference's top offense (487.8 ypg), while Cincinnati's has averaged the most points (39.1 ppg).

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