- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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West Virginia coach Bill Stewart got a little uncharacteristically testy in his first couple of media sessions after the 20-14 loss at LSU. If Stewart was on edge or upset, you couldn't blame him. A couple of special-teams plays in that game could have changed the outcome and the Mountaineers' entire season. They could be 5-0 right now, in the top 15 and on the fringes of the national-title discussion.
Still, the season holds much promise for the team that has, to this point, been the best in the Big East. Sophomore quarterback Geno Smith has shown a maturity beyond his years, helping rev up the passing game to new heights. The veteran-laden defense leads the Big East in allowing just 13.6 points per game. Noel Devine, Jock Sanders and Tavon Austin give Stewart three dynamic playmakers he can count on at any time.
The Mountaineers won't play for the national title this year, but their other goals -- winning the Big East and reaching the 10-win mark -- seem very much in reach.
Offensive MVP: Geno Smith, QB.
Devine's numbers are a little down, but Smith has made sure the offense doesn't suffer. He is completing 66.4 percent of his passes, best among Big East starters, and owns a 12-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio. West Virginia's offense is truly balanced for the first time in a long time because of Smith, and his leadership in the Marshall comeback will be remembered for years by the Mountaineer faithful.
Defensive MVP: Chris Neild, NT
This is a tough decision, because West Virginia's defense is full of veterans who are all playing well together, without a lot of standout individual numbers. So we single out a guy who is almost never singled out. Everything starts up front with Neild, who occupies blockers at the point of West Virginia's 3-3-5 scheme. Neild doesn't have gaudy numbers (16 tackles, two sacks), but he's as vital of a cog to this defense as there is.