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Second-half preview: West Virginia

10/21/2009

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

West Virginia's second half could end up in one of two extremes.

The Mountaineers are talented enough to win the Big East and return to the BCS for the third time in the last five years. But if they fall short of the Big East title, they might have to settle for their least prestigious bowl game this decade. That's because the Gator Bowl will be out if Notre Dame takes that slot, and the Meineke Car Care Bowl might not want to invite West Virginia for the second straight year.

That means a lot is riding on the final six games, and the Mountaineers have more conference games left than anybody else. They have two dangerous road assignments -- at South Florida and at Cincinnati -- and need to break a two-year losing streak to Pitt in the Backyard Brawl. Much could depend on the health of quarterback Jarrett Brown, who could miss this week's game and more with a concussion.

Best case: Brown returns quickly, and the offense blitzkriegs through the Big East. West Virginia wins out and reclaims its spot atop the conference and in the BCS.

Worst case: Brown misses extended time, and the offense has to be scaled back. Turnovers continue to cause problems. The Mountaineers lose at South Florida, at Cincinnati and to Pitt for a third straight year. An 8-4 record for a second straight season doesn't sit well in Morgantown.

Prediction: Papajohns.com Bowl.