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Colleges of Area Interest Earn Average Grades

November 6, 2010
By DOUG HUFF, Sports Columnist


OK, students, it's time for some mid-season grades, opinions and observations, on teams of regional interest.

Here's one person's view:

WEST VIRGINIA - If someone said before the season that the Nov. 13 game against Cincinnati would be a pivotal game for the Mountaineers, the men in the white coats might have appeared. But that's the case as WVU takes a much needed break this weekend following back-to-back Big East Conference setbacks to Syracuse and Connecticut.

WVU's play vs. the Bearcats could be a good barometer for the rest of the season. Another so-so performance, especially on the offensive side of the ball, could grease the skids for the remaining games against Louisville, Pittsburgh and Rutgers. A strong effort could be a positive sign of things to come.

But the Mountaineers have to take advantage of a weak, overall Big East Conference and finish strong to regain some stature in what started as a 5-1 record nationally ranked squad.

There might be some explanations for the loss to a rejuvenated 5-2 Syracuse team but there's no rational excuse for losing to a sub-par UConn team led by a third-string quarterback. That was a major pin in the Blue & Gold balloon.

Times have changed since 2008 when WVU defeated an Auburn team that is now one of the top two ranked teams in the land.

Grade: C-minus.

OHIO STATE - The Buckeyes' offensive machine is firing on all cylinders as quarterback TERRELL PRYOR has established himself as a solid Heisman Trophy candidate. OSU stubbed its toe, on the road to a good 7-1 record Wisconsin team, but has since rebounded with two solid victories and will end the season vs. Penn State, at Iowa and the annual beat-down of Michigan.

The Buckeyes control their own postseason destiny if they take care of business the rest of the way and there are no signs that they can't finish with an 11-1 mark.

Grade: B-plus.

NOTRE DAME - When are the Irish going to become a relevant team again on the national scene? Notre Dame has lost three of its last four games against Navy and hit rock bottom last week when it lost, at home to Tulsa, a middle-of-the-pack Conference USA member which had given up 65 points to Oklahoma State and 51 points to East Carolina.

The Irish currently are 4-5 with games left against unbeaten Utah, Southern California and Army. A couple of those outcomes could be ugly.

If the on-field results are subpar, it's worse on the Notre Dame campus where there is an uproar against the coaching staff following the death of a student volunteer who fell from a lift during a windstorm while filming practice.

Grade: D.

MARSHALL - The Thundering Herd faithful were celebrating when new athletic director MIKE HAMRICK hired DOC HOLIDAY away from the WVU staff to head the football fortunes. But the long-time assistant coach, and renown recruiter at WVU, Florida and North Carolina State, has found the sledding rough in Huntington.

Marshall is 2-6 and has yet to score 30 points in a game. If the Herd finishes strong with four victories, things could turn around for the new coaching staff. It's like any other situation, you have to see how things play out for the duration and not have a knee-jerk reaction about a game or two.

Grade: D-plus.

PITTSBURGH - The Panthers, who are idle this weekend, may have gotten their act together after a rocky 2-3 start which included a loss to a weak Notre Dame team and an embarrassing 31-3 nationally televised thumping from a 5-3 Miami team, which lost at Virginia last weekend.

Pitt has reeled off three straight Big East victories against Louisville, Rutgers and Syracuse and have four games remaining against Connecticut, South Florida, West Virginia and Cincinnati.

Grade: C-plus.

MICHIGAN - The Wolverines are following last year's script when they started off like their hair was on fire and ended being smoked by the better Big Ten Conference teams. Michigan won its first five games and has dropped three straight to in-state rival Michigan State, Iowa and Penn State.

Remaining foes include Illinois, Purdue, Wisconsin and Ohio State.

With a 13-19 Michigan record, coach RICH RODRIGUEZ needs his defense to step up or he could be putting the pressure on his real estate agent to sell his Cheat Lake home, which has had no buyers since he departed Morgantown in 2007.

But, as we've opined several times in the past, college coaching staffs anywhere - Michigan, West Virginia, Notre Dame, Marshall, etc., deserve a four-year stay much like politicians. If they can't do the job in four years, you vote them out or replace the coach.

Grade: C-minus.

Enjoy the weekend.

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