West Virginia Football: Can WVU Save the Reputation of the Big East Conference?

DJ BumgarnerContributor IIIJuly 18, 2011

LOUISVILLE, KY - NOVEMBER 20:  Geno Smith#12 of the West Virginia Mountaineers throws a pass during the Big East Conference game against the Louisville Cardinals at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium on November 20, 2010 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

January 2, 2008 seemed to mark the end of any respect the Big East conference had in the college football world. Following West Virginia's 48–28 upset victory over the Oklahoma Sooners in the Fiesta Bowl, many pointed toward WVU as possibly being a contender for National Championship the following year.

Since that time though, West Virginia has been a very inconsistent team, and has failed to reach a BCS game. Both Cincinnati and Connecticut have both won the Big East since then, and both failed to win a BCS game.

West Virginia has seen success since then, as well as heartbreak. The Mountaineers' struggles offensively have been well documented under the coaching of Bill Stewart and offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen.

Fast-forward to 2011. Both Bill Stewart and Jeff Mullen are not longer part of the Mountaineer staff; instead, both have seemingly been replaced by former Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Dana Holgorson.

While Dana has never been a head coach, he's had great success calling plays offensively, having top-five offenses everywhere he's been.

The Mountaineers have plenty of talent on offense to help bring Holgorson's offense to life, including quarterback Geno Smith, who should do wonders under this offense and could possibly be a dark horse Heisman contender.

The true test for Holgorson will be managing being a head coach and a play-caller all at once, and in the end could be the difference in West Virginia winning the Big East and having another disappointing end to the season.

With Jeff Casteel returning to guide the defense in the right direction like he's done in the past, the Mountaineers should be in good shape on that side of the ball, even with losing some key players.

It helps a ton when you look at the 2011 schedule:

Norfolk State
@ Maryland
Bowling Green
@ Syracuse
@ Rutgers
@ Cincinnati

If WVU can pull off an upset against LSU it would do huge things confidence-wise and possibly launch WVU on a roller coaster journey to win out the rest of the schedule. I don't think a loss will really hurt anything, but a W would be nice.

Many are predicting the Big East coming down to WVU and USF, which will make for a great game to decide the conference champion, the winner getting a BCS bid.

If it comes down to WVU and USF, I as a WVU fan would obviously hope the Mountaineers could pull it off, but I also think anybody who is not a USF fan would agree with that statement.

West Virginia has the experience of playing in the big games, and let's not look past the fact that the Mountaineer's are undefeated in BCS bowls, having beat both Georgia and Oklahoma.

The Mountaineers' schedule is fairly easy compared to some, and I see no reason why WVU can not go undefeated, but I don't think it will happen. I can easily see a few losses along the way due to mistakes, possibly against Maryland and a Big East opponent. However, I believe an upset over LSU is very possible, and it would launch WVU in the polls.

If things go well, West Virginia could save the Big East, even if it's just for the 2011 season.