Huge weekend slate, legitimizing West Virginia, more
Posted: Wednesday September 13, 2006 11:36AM; Updated: Wednesday September 13, 2006 2:46PM
As long as Heisman hopeful Steve Slaton stays healthy, there's no reason West Virginia can't remain an upper-echelon team.
Submit a question or an opinion to Stewart.
If they haven't already, I'm sure the Disney networks will come up with some catchy nickname for Saturday's unprecedented slate of seven games between ranked opponents. "Showdown Saturday," maybe? "Armageddon Saturday"? "Stock Up on Batteries Because This Is the One Day All Year You Wouldn't Want Your Remote to Die"?
Whatever you want to call it, Saturday is going to be a rare opportunity to watch nearly all the nation's highest-ranked teams play meaningful games on the same day, after which you'll be able to decide for yourself who the real national-title contenders should be. Which is why I'm urging all of you to begin your viewing weekend on Thursday night.
I realize that West Virginia-Maryland doesn't carry quite the same cachet as LSU-Auburn or Notre Dame-Michigan, but it's a chance to see the current No. 5 team in the country play. Judging by some of the e-mails I've been receiving, I get the sense that it's a team not a whole lot of people have seen.
Do any of you pollsters really think West Virginia is the fifth- or sixth-best team in college football? -- Seth, Clifton, N.J.
I can only speak for this pollster, who says: Yes, I do.
It's one thing to bemoan West Virginia's light schedule, which will admittedly become a major issue if the Mountaineers contend for the national title (though, surprisingly, the Big East has performed as well as any major conference so far, going 11-2 in nonconference games). I get the sense, however, that a lot of people assume the Mountaineers are a fraud just because they play in the Big East. To those people, I have to ask, have you actually seen West Virginia play this season or last?
I don't know how anyone who's watched QB Pat White and RB Steve Slaton in action could possibly doubt that these guys are upper-echelon talents. You don't jump to a 28-0 lead and run for 382 yards against SEC champion Georgia by accident. You don't score 17 points in the final eight minutes of regulation and three straight touchdowns in overtime against Louisville by accident. To me, watching West Virginia is a lot like watching a really good option team from the old days (only these guys operate out of the shotgun) -- do you try to stop the QB or the RB? Usually, they both end up killing you.
Now, I have no idea whether the dynamic duo will keep it up all season. And the Mountaineers have yet to face an opponent that can truly test their inexperienced secondary. Maybe they'll end up falling on their faces at some point. Who knows? As of today, however, I have no qualms whatsoever putting them in the top five. But you can decide for yourself after the weekend.