Friday the 13th creeps up at least once every year and, for those who hold tight to superstition, is thought to bring bad luck. If WVU's recent success on this normally scary day continues, though, they have nothing to fear.
The 13th of the month has fallen on Friday twice in 2009. The first was in February when Bob Huggins and the basketball version of the Mountaineers found themselves taking on the 13th-ranked Villanova Wildcats. DeSean Butler had a career night, dropping in 43 points, and the Mountaineers came out on top 93-72.
The WVU community would not have to wait long for another Friday the 13th, as one came the very next month. On March 13, 2009, the University named James P. Clements its twenty-third president. He came to Morgantown from Towson, where he served as Provost.
Two down, one to go for West Virginia. This time the Mountaineers' path will be crossed by a team of black cats that will look to end the Mountaineers string of good fortune on this most unlucky day. Cincinnati looks to secure their fourth 10-win season in school history (1951, 2007, 2008) and their first 10-0 start. The Mountaineers, on the other hand, still have Big East title hopes of their own. Wins in their final three games would send WVU to the BCS.
Before we get ahead of ourselves, though, here are some keys to taking down the No. 5 Bearcats on Friday night:
Quiet the crowd early: Cincinnati's Nippert Stadium may not be the Big House, but the 35,100 people it does hold feel like they are right on top of the action. They will be draped in black, and raucous from the very beginning. This crowd is always enthused about the Mountaineers coming to town; it has been sold out for months, but this game holds the added element of BCS title implications and the prime time cameras of ESPN.
A big time breakaway, which used to be typical of WVU teams, would go a long way in bringing about some much-needed silence. West Virginia was missing the big play component of their offense in the Louisville game.
Special Teams: The Bill Stewart-coached special teams unit has been dreadful for much of the season. It is rare that any defense forces Cincinnati's highly charged offense to punt, so if WVU can accomplish this they cannot simply give the ball back on a muff.
They can also ill-afford to kick the ball short, or out of bounds on kickoffs. This Bearcat offense is potent enough without allowing them to start from the forty yard line. In contrast, the ball does need to be booted out of bounds, and far, far away from Mardy Gilyard in punting situations.
Force the Cincy offense out of rhythm: Brian Kelly has said that sophomore Zach Collaros will start for the still healing Tony Pike on Friday night. He has also stated that Pike is expected to see some playing time during the game. Both of these quarterbacks have looked unshakable in any of their games.
Until now, though, neither has had to think about the other guy looming over their shoulder. If WVU can force Collaros into a mistake early, it may force Pike into the game and could expose the rust he has accumulated the last three weeks on the sideline.
Score over 30 points: This may seem fairly obvious and more easily typed than done, but humor me for a second. The Mountaineers have not lost when scoring over 30 this season—that much you probably could have guessed. However, the lowest output the Cincinnati offense has been held to is 28. So it is almost mandatory the WVU offense find a way to come up with at least 30 points to have a shot.
Jarrett Brown, Noel Devine, and company are certainly capable of reaching that number, but they will have to be more explosive than they have been in the last two weeks.
It may not be groundbreaking, but if WVU can find it within themselves to follow these keys, they should continue their good fortune on Friday the Thirteenths.