Tom from Eye and Eer, a West Virginia and Ohio State blog, took the time to answer a few of my questions about things heading into the game Saturday. Tom asked me some questions that should be up on their site tomorrow. Many thanks to him for answering thoughtfully. You should check out the blog as well. They do a nice job. They have a podcast that I haven't been invited on, but I'm sure that's also good. I kid, check out the convo friends.
West Virginia was picked as the co-second place team along with Cincinnati, and has seen their season turn downward. What's been the biggest issue for the Mountaineers?
Coaching and confidence. I'm the first to admit that I thought hiring Bill Stewart after the 2008 Fiesta Bowl was a huge mistake and I still feel that way. He's overmatched as a head coach. He's a special teams coach and a good guy to have on a staff, but he has no business being the man in charge. His style and ability have finally caught up to WVU. As for confidence, if you watched WVU play in the UConn game you could just tell the team was waiting for something bad to happen and no one wanted to take charge. I guess you could also say turnovers have been a huge problem the last few games as well.
The Mountaineers defense is top notch. For Cincinnati fans who might not know a whole lot about them, can you tell us about the players to watch out for?
WVU's defense has played extremely well this season. It's not a complete shock as the Mountaineers returned some pretty talented players. Leading the way is LB J.T. Thomas, NT Chris Neild and S Robert Sands. The corners -- Brandon Hogan, Keith Tandy and Terrence Garvin -- are also among the best in the conference. DE Bruce Irvin is also a fan favorite as he has become WVU's 'sack specialist.'
Geno Smith has looked good at times, and not exactly great at others. Has his season progressed as you thought?
I was confident that Geno would have a nice season. He's a confident player, but he different than what most fans have become accustomed to. He's actually a mix between Pat White and last year's QB Jarrett Brown. He's not crazy fast like White, but he has a better arm. He's probably not as fast as Brown either, but he's more accurate than Jarrett. Really, he's had just one bad game and that was the loss at home to Syracuse. He has a chance to have two more outstanding seasons in Morgantown.
Noel Devine's yards per carry has dropped off by over a yard. Is it the result of too many carries last season? Nagging injuries? The fact he's played at West Virginia since 1923?
The foot injury at LSU earlier this season has clearly had an impact on his production this season. He doesn't seem to have the explosiveness that once made him so special. Another factor that is hurting Devine's ability to break off the big run is the offensive line has been a huge disappointment this season. This group played together all last season and everyone thought they would jell into a cohesive unit this fall. It just hasn't happened.
Obviously things have been a crazy mess in the Big East. The Mountaineers or Bearcats are going to be 1-3 in conference play. What one will it be?
Your guess is as good as mine. Three weeks ago I would have confidently said WVU would win this game. I still like the Mountaineers' chances of bouncing back, but I thought the same before the UConn game. If the Mountaineers can get the offense going they should win, but I'm actually leaning toward Cincinnati in this game. For some reason, I just think Butch Jones will out coach Bill Stewart and OC Jeff Mullen on Saturday.
His last answer is quite interesting. It seems that no one in the Big East has any faith in their team to win. I bet even Pittsburgh fans are worried about a collapse. As they should be. Maybe. I'll give my prediction tomorrow in the preview post. Thanks one last time to Tom. Great job.