Much at Stake for Pitt, WVU, Penn State

Article excerpt

The college football season has been highlighted by the unimaginable (Appalachian State over Michigan) and the laughable (Notre Dame going 0-fer as far as wins and offensive touchdowns are concerned), but, for the most part, has played out as anticipated in the early going.

USC looks as good as ever.

LSU looks absolutely scary.

And Florida has its usual array of burners.

Those are your national championship contenders, again.

Assuming Oklahoma took care of business last night against Tulsa, we can also include the Sooners on the short list of teams that have separated themselves.

Closer to home, West Virginia, Penn State and Pitt are still trying to find themselves.

The Mountaineers have apparently gotten their hands on another sensational running back in Noel Devine, but still appear to be adhering to a defense-optional philosophy.

That has to change if WVU is to become more than just the nation's most exciting wannabe.

Eventually, perhaps as soon as Sept. 28 at South Florida, tackling is going to matter.

That being the case, it would behoove WVU to host East Carolina today determined to play with an energy and passion on defense that approaches the level of explosiveness demonstrated on a regular basis by the Mountaineers' offense.

It also might be a good idea to stop hoarding speed backs and recruit someone who specializes in slowing them down.

At Penn State, the problem at present is more related to venue.

The Nittany Lions will venture into the Big House this afternoon having compiled a 1-11 road record against Michigan, Ohio State, Iowa and Wisconsin since 2000.

They've also lost eight straight to Michigan, an inexplicable run of ineptitude that probably would have gotten two Ohio State coaches fired.

They'll have a chance to snap that streak today because Tom Bradley's defense will at least contain running back Mike Hart. But even a Bradley-coached Penn State defense isn't going to put up a stone wall against a back of Hart's caliber.

The offense, in general, and inconsistent quarterback Anthony Morelli, in particular, are going to have to be heard from.

Games such as this are why Morelli committed to Pitt and then reneged and decided to attend Penn State.

And Michigan has never been more vulnerable in recent memory.

The game Morelli plays today will define him, one way or another.

Pitt fans, meanwhile, should be hoping Pat Bostick simply gets to play tonight against UConn.

Head coach Dave Wannstedt is correct in his assessment that last Saturday's 17-13 near miss at Michigan State can't be attributed entirely to Kevan Smith's ineffectiveness. But Wannstedt and the rest of his staff are also well aware that Bostick is the program's future at the position in much the same way LeSean McCoy is at running back.

If Bostick isn't ready to functionally run the offense, that's an issue unto itself, and Pitt has bigger problems than even the most frustrated of Panthers backers can imagine.

But if he's been coached up well enough since the conclusion of training camp to get the Panthers out of the huddle and get the plays off, it's time to start developing his arm and football smarts in something other than a practice.

It's time to get Bostick's feet wet against an opponent other than Grambling State.

An opponent other than USC, LSU, Florida and Oklahoma.

The college football season has been highlighted by the unimaginable (Appalachian State over Michigan) and the laughable (Notre Dame going 0-fer as far as wins and offensive touchdowns are concerned), but, for the most part, has played out as anticipated in the early going. …