Big East title, BCS bowl still in cards for WVU
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — With a win and some help, West Virginia can claim the Big East title — and a BCS berth.
The first step for the No. 22 Mountaineers is to win Thursday at South Florida to claim a share of the conference championship.
"This game is what this team is going to be remembered for," coach Dana Holgorsen said. "You can take the rest of the games, and you can delete them."
Who will claim the Big East's automatic BCS berth is more complicated: West Virginia, Cincinnati and Louisville remain alive, but none controls its destiny.
Louisville (7-5, 5-2) has earned at least a share of the Big East title. If Cincinnati (8-3, 4-2) loses Saturday vs. Connecticut, the Cardinals are headed to a BCS game -- likely facing the ACC champion in the Orange Bowl, which is last in the BCS pecking order this season.
Cincinnati needs West Virginia to lose Thursday and to beat Connecticut on Saturday to get the BCS berth; it holds the head-to-head tiebreaker with Louisville.
West Virginia (8-3, 4-2) needs a little more help because its 38-35 loss to Louisville on Nov. 5 would cost it the head-to-head tiebreaker. To earn the BCS berth, the Mountaineers must beat South Florida, then Cincinnati must beat Connecticut to force a three-way tie atop the conference.
The first tiebreaker is head-to-head among the three teams, and each would be 1-1. The BCS standings would be next; the Mountaineers, at No. 23 this week, would hold the advantage there barring major changes.
Even without a BCS berth, West Virginia would be happy with a share of the Big East title, which was its goal at the start of the season.
"There still will be a trophy coming in here, a number on the weight room saying 'Big East Champions 2011,' " defensive tackle Julian Miller said. "I think that's the main focus coming into this game. This is our conference championship."
Holgorsen has been adamant about his team remaining focused on what it can control, but that will change this weekend. After Thursday, West Virginia can't do anything but hope Cincinnati wins and pray the BCS standings remain unchanged.
"I'm sure everybody's going to be glued to the TV set if we're able to get a victory Thursday," Holgorsen said. "But if we can't take care of business and get the victory Thursday night, it really doesn't matter what happens Saturday."