Making a case: West Virginia

November, 2, 2011
11/02/11
3:30
PM ET
For the moment, there are three teams in the Big East that control their own destiny for a conference title and BCS berth. Today, I look at West Virginia and its case for a championship.

Why the Mountaineers will win the Big East

1. Offense. No question West Virginia has the best offense in the Big East with Geno Smith running the show. Stedman Bailey has emerged as an All-Big East wide receiver, and Tavon Austin has been terrific as well. When you average 482 yards a game, then chances are you are going to be in every game.

2. Matchup advantage vs. Cincinnati. Should West Virginia and Cincinnati win this weekend, they would go into next week's game against each other with first place in the Big East on the line. The Mountaineers would have an advantage with their pass game against a secondary that has been shaky at times this season. Cincinnati has given up over 400 yards passing twice this year, and this will be the best passing offense the Bearcats will face. West Virginia has won seven of eight games in Cincinnati.

3. Too much talent. West Virginia has been able to utilize its talented skill position players perhaps better than anybody in the Big East, and that is a big reason why the Mountaineers have been so good on offense. The defense may have struggled in the last two games, but this is still a group ranked No. 3 in the Big East in total defense with some talented players on that side of the ball as well.

Why the Mountaineers won't win the Big East

1. Defense. The group has been wildly inconsistent this season, but right now the lasting image I have is not shutting Rutgers out in the second half but allowing Syracuse and Rutgers to score 80 points in six quarters of football. And let's be honest here, neither team is a scoring machine.

2. Too much pressure. Smith stood upright for most of the game last week against Rutgers, and that was obviously a huge improvement. But you can bet teams the rest of the way out are going to try to get him to the ground. The remaining teams on the schedule -- Louisville (23), Cincinnati (23), Pitt (27) and USF (23) -- are the top four teams in the Big East in sacks.

3. Special teams. Miscues on special teams have wound up costing the Mountaineers big time. West Virginia is one of three teams in the nation that has given up two or more kickoff returns for touchdown this season. The Mountaineers are among the worst in the nation in kickoff return and punt return defense, so this is an area that still needs improvement.

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