MORGANTOWN - Too many times I thought to myself this fall - will the final story written on the 2011 Mountaineers football season have a happy ending, or would it read more like an obituary?
Regardless of what happens today in Cincinnati, it was a success. Even if the Bearcats - a 9.5-point favorite - win today and West Virginia, indeed, gets the Big East's BCS bid, it won't be an overwhelming success. But it's better than it looked a month ago.
That was just after a home loss to Louisville where you could practically see the sky falling around Morgantown.
How could a season that ends in a BCS game be looked at anything but overwhelmingly awesome? Depends on how good you are at forgetting.
Lost in what's left of the Big East's season is a game involving Pitt and Syracuse. On the surface, it's a nothing game involving two teams who have yet to find a way to get themselves bowl eligible in an era where it's nearly impossible not to.
But also, Syracuse will be looking for just its second league victory. To this point, its only one came against West Virginia. What in the name of Ben Schwartzwalder happened that night?
We may never know.
And what about losing to the Cardinals? Sure, many Big East teams did. But not many Conference USA teams did. Or Sun Belt teams. Louisville was 0-1 against both of those conferences.
As for the other loss, there's no shame in losing to LSU. Everyone did.
Anyway, perhaps you can gloss over that. Put a blanket over the whole thing. You're able to rationalize that a new coach came in with a completely different system and continued a whole bunch of pretty fancy streaks.
Continuing this season, West Virginia has finished with at least a 5-2 conference record every season since 2002. The Mountaineers have finished no worse than second place in the Big East for what is now 10 straight seasons. They've won or shared the league title for the sixth time in nine seasons.
It's pretty impressive stuff.
The Mountaineers are like George Costanza. They're leaving on a high note.
The Baby Mountaineers are in for an awakening. Enough with the Alcorn States and Akrons of the world, it's college basketball education time, beginning today at No. 21 Mississippi State (9 p.m., ESPNU).
Then, it's on to Wichita, Kan., to take on Kansas State on Thursday before returning home to play Miami a week from today.
Are these guys ready to play in environments like this against this type of competition?
''I don't know,'' coach Bob Huggins said earlier this week. ''That's why we do it. If we're afraid to go play, then we're not any good. And we're not going to be any good. For a long time, we won more games on the road than we won at home. That's never been an issue.''
Time to see if it becomes one.
Jim Elliott can be reached via e-mail at: email@example.com