Some midseason observations and report cards on teams of area interest:
(1) West Virginia is off to a 5-1 start and the national polls have them as the only Big East team ranked in the Top 25. With six conference teams left on the schedule, the Mountaineers could be favored the rest of the way.
However, there are some surprises in the conference and the biggest could be WVU's next opponent - Syracuse. The Orange were 4-8 under first-year coach DOUG MARRONE last season but will take a 4-1 record vs. Pittsburgh today.
If the Panthers, who were the preseason title favorite in the Big East, lose that game, Pitt's record will drop to 2-4 with the lone victories against two non-BCS Conference foes - New Hampshire and Florida International. Yikes!
(2) WVU sophomore GENO SMITH could be the best passing Mountaineers quarterback in the last decade. Or since current NFL quarterback MARC BULGER was wearing the Gold & Blue from 1997-99.
There were preseason concerns about the inexperience at the key signalcaller position but Smith has performed like a veteran in six starts this season, including the 20-14 loss at unbeaten Top 10-ranked Louisiana State. Smith's accuracy and poise have been impressive so far and could take the Mountaineers a long way the rest of the season.
(3) A tip of the hat should go to WVU defensive coordinator, and Paden City native, JEFF CASTEEL. The Mountaineers defensive unit has been solid in five of the games with the only breakdowns coming at Marshall in a 24-21 overtime victory. Of course, it probably didn't hurt the Herd effort that six members of their staff, including graduate assistants, earlier roamed the WVU sidelines. Marshall is now 1-5 with only a last-second, one-point victory against Ohio.
Even LSU, playing at home before more than 90,000 fans, couldn't march on the WVU defensive unit. The Tigers scored their two touchdowns on a long punt return and a short-yardage TD following a fumble recovery.
(4) When the first BCS standings are released after this weekend's games, don't be surprised if Ohio State, which enters Saturday night's game at Wisconsin as the No. 1-ranked team in the polls, is down the list. Computers, of which we are not a fan, won't weigh Buckeyes victories against Eastern Michigan, Ohio and Marshall very highly. However, the upcoming Big Ten schedule for OSU could return the Buckeyes to the top of the heap if OSU continues to win.
(5) The favorable Notre Dame schedule should help BRIAN KELLY get off to a positive start with the Fighting Irish. ND is 3-3 with three of the next four games against Western Michigan, Navy, Tulsa and Army. The Irish also play Utah and end regular season play vs. old rival USC.
The Veterans Day 10K Run/Walk has been awarded the Three Rivers USA Track & Field 10K championship, the first time a new race has received the honor, according to race director HUGH STOBBS. The Three Rivers Association covers Western Pennsylvania and the northern counties of West Virginia.
The event will start at 8:30 a.m., Nov. 6 at Bridge Street School in Elm Grove.
Stobbs notes that Three Rivers will award prize money to the top two men and women overall finishers and the top two male and female masters' entries who are member of the Three Rivers Association. Memberships are available on the internet.
Stobbs notes that early entries are urged so plans can be finalized for the post-race banquet at WesBanco Arena.
The Three Rivers Long Distance Chairman is former West Liberty State runner JOE SARVER, who competed for WLS in 1986 when the Stobbs-coached Hilltoppers won the WVIAC title and competed in the national championships. Others on that team included current Wheeling City Manager BOB HERRON and two Wheeling runners - attorney GREG McDERMOTT and JOHN SORGE.
More information on the race is available from Sarver at 724-503-3234 or e-amnil at email@example.com.
Enjoy the weekend.