|COLLEGE FB PACKAGE: Mountaineers not ready to talk about BCS title game|
|Written by Admin|
|Wednesday, 21 November 2007 09:48|
Don't get Rich Rodriguez started on No. 4 West Virginia's hopes of making the Bowl Championship Series title game.|
While it's fine to do the math and play ``what if'' over the next two weeks, Rodriguez has more immediate concerns: beating No. 20 Connecticut (9-2, 5-1) on Saturday in a de facto conference championship game.
``Our first goal of the year, every year, is to win the Big East,'' Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez briefly talked to his players about West Virginia's BCS title chances after the Mountaineers beat Cincinnati on Saturday. Mostly, though, he reminded them that a loss to the Huskies would make any national title talk meaningless.
``I really don't want them thinking about anything but the UConn game,'' he said.
If the Mountaineers (9-1, 4-1) want to clinch their second conference title in three seasons, they'll have to do a better job of taking care of the ball than they did in close wins over the Bearcats and Louisville.
West Virginia had control of both games late in the second half, but turnovers made the final minutes more interesting than they had to be.
``Obviously we're concerned any time we have turnovers,'' Rodriguez said. ``We've watched film and tried to address the issue. It's not something that (the players) are going to do a whole lot. We're going to accentuate the positive.''
BIG NUMBERS: No. 24 Cincinnati needs only 21 points in its final game against Syracuse on Saturday night to set a school record for scoring.
Not bad for a team still getting used to a new offense.
When coach Brian Kelly came over from Central Michigan, he installed a spread, no-huddle offense that didn't suit the strengths of some of his players. Previous coaches had recruited linemen and running backs who fit better into a ground-oriented offense.
``It shows a lot about their character,'' said quarterback Ben Mauk, who ran a spread offense in high school. ``It's not something they're used to, but they do what the coaches ask and our season has been a success because of that.''
Two things have helped. The defense leads the nation in creating turnovers, which have set up 128 of their 389 points. And Mauk has made the whole thing go.
He broke his arm and dislocated his shoulder in Wake Forest's season opener against Syracuse last year, then transferred to Cincinnati (8-3, 3-3) because he knew of Kelly's reputation for wide-open offense. His arm has gotten stronger as the season has gone along.
``You could make the case that we probably wouldn't be where we are now without Ben,'' Kelly said.
The next wave of recruits will be more suited to the wide-open offense, so even better things could be ahead.
``We're at a position now that the system is firmly established,'' Kelly said. ``Now it's a matter of getting to recruit players for this kind of offense. We've been able to do it with players we didn't recruit to the system, so that's pretty exciting as you look down the path.''
ANOTHER LOST YEAR: Syracuse coach Greg Robinson said he never really knew what kind of team he had before the season began.
If it didn't become obvious through the first 11 games, Robinson knows now. And with one game remaining in his third year, the sight isn't pretty for a historically prestigious program that ranks 14th all-time in wins with 670.
``I never thought we'd be sitting right now at 2-9,'' Robinson said after Saturday's 30-7 loss at Connecticut. ``There were too many question marks to really state that we were this kind of team or that kind of team. That's why I refrained from really making statements.''
A loss at home to No. 24 Cincinnati would be only the second 10-loss season in school history. The Orange went 1-10 two years ago in Robinson's first season.
SMITH OR BOSTICK: Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt won't announce until gametime whether freshman Pat Bostick, the starter most of the season, or redshirt freshman Kevan Smith will open at quarterback Saturday against South Florida.
An ineffective Bostick was benched during a 20-16 loss to Rutgers last Saturday, but returned to throw an interception into the end zone during the final minute. Bostick was replaced earlier in the game by Smith, who injured his right shoulder.
Smith did not separate his shoulder, as Pitt (4-6, 2-3) initially thought, and could play against the Bulls (8-3, 3-3) if he outperforms Bostick during practice.
``We'll practice both and rotate both,'' Wannstedt said Monday. ``We'll see how Kevan is, how Pat bounces back and make a determination come Saturday.''
HONORS: South Florida running back Mike Ford was named the Big East offensive player of the week after rushing for a career-high 140 yards and two touchdowns in a 55-17 victory over Louisville. Ford is the first USF rookie to post consecutive 100-yard games.
Pittsburgh linebacker Scott McKillop, the nation's leading tackler, was the defensive player of the week for his play in a 20-16 loss to Rutgers. McKillop had 16 tackles, including 1 1/2 sacks, forced a fumble, recovered two fumbles and intercepted a pass.
West Virginia punter Pat McAfee was the special teams player of the week for the second time this season, after averaging 49 yards on three punts and making all four extra points for the Mountaineers in a win over Cincinnati.
QUICK HITS: One of the keys to Connecticut's success this season has been continuity. The Huskies have started the same 11 players on defense in every game, the only team in the Football Bowl Subdivision to do so. The Huskies rank third in the country in scoring defense, allowing 14.3 points per game. ... Louisville quarterback Brian Brohm became the Big East's career passing leader against South Florida. He has 9,719 passing yards. ... Rutgers has won at least seven games in three consecutive seasons for the first time since 1978-80.
AP Sports Writers John Kekis in Syracuse, N.Y., and Joe Kay in Cincinnati contributed to this report.
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