With Texas enjoying its first bye week of the season, we turn our attention to other matchups of note this Saturday that can have an effect on the Longhorns outside chance at a BCS bid.
#6 West Virginia at #22 Cincinnati
West Virginia comes in having won 4 straight games, back in the hunt for the Big East title and an outside chance at the BCS National Championship game. It has been a crazy season in the Big East as most expected, West Virginia's last two games against Louisville and Rutgers to be the ones that decided the conference title, as oppose to their next two against Cincinnati and Connecticut.
West Virginia has one of the top offenses in the country behind the running of QB Pat White (863 yds/10 TDs) and RB Steve Slaton (885 yds/14 TDs). They are fast and athletic and have a great offensive line with an effective blocking scheme. They also spread the field well, making it difficult for defenses to crowd the box to stop the run. The West Virginia defense is also a great unit, ranking 4th in the country in total defense and 11th in pass defense. They will need to play well and pressure QB Ben Mauk (2033 yds/21 TDs/6 INTs) and force him into making mistakes.
Cincinnati comes into this game hot, after defeating South Florida and then destroying UConn 27-3 last week. If Cincinnati hopes to keep the magic alive against the Mountaineers they are going to have to disrupt the West Virginia game and force turnovers. While Cincinnati boasts the 13th ranked run defense in the country, they haven't faced a running attack like this. In WVU's only loss this season, South Florida was able to jump out to a 21-3 lead and forced West Virginia to throw the ball to get back into the game. The Bulls also forced 6 turnovers. This is going to have to be how Cincinnati gets it done if they hope to defeat West Virginia. Slaton is prone to fumbles, and Pat White has been in and out of games with injuries all season long. Cincinnati will need to hit hard and not give up the big chunks of yardage that West Virginia thrives on.
The Longhorns at this point are hoping for an at large BCS birth. To do so they need to be among the top teams that didn't win their conference and hope that Boise State or Hawaii doesn't get an automatic birth by finishing in the top 12, or finishing in the top 16 ahead of a major conference champion. How does this relate to the Big East? Anyone winning the conference other than West Virginia (Connecticut leads the conference by a half game) would cause all sorts of problems as UConn and Cincy are behind Boise State and Hawaii in the BCS rankings, and West Virginia would probably stay ahead of Texas as a two loss team. Texas needs West Virginia to win out which would lock up the Big East automatic birth and effectively knock Cincinnati and UConn out of BCS at large contention.
West Virginia is too much on the ground for Cincinnati and Ben Mauk struggles with West Virginia's aggressive defense as the Mountaineers roll 34-21.