MORGANTOWN - Coaches are fond of saying that things are seldom as bad or as good as they would appear.
Just as a reminder, of course, they're almost universally found to be saying that when things seem pretty bad, not when they seem good.
As Jeff Goldblum's character in "The Big Chill" said, "I don't know anyone who could get through the day without two or three juicy rationalizations." Rationalizing a loss, especially a bad one, is inherent in the coaching profession.
And, boy, has Dana Holgorsen had to rationalize a few losses this season.
First there was 37-0 to Maryland. Then there was 73-42 at Baylor.
OK, so he didn't exactly rationalize either. I think he probably trotted out the never-as-bad thing, although I don't recall it specifically, but he certainly came close when, after the beatdown in Baltimore, he opined that his team was thisclose to being pretty good.
"I know it's hard to believe, but there are things that resemble football," he said.
And then two weeks later his West Virginia team went to Waco and played nothing that resembled football. And again Holgorsen repeated himself.
"I think we're still close to being a good football team,'' he said when I reminded him of his post-Maryland statement in light of his team's Baylor performance.
It's starting to become harder to believe.
Harder, but not entirely impossible.
No, this team is never going to be a really good one, at least not in terms of what West Virginia fans have come to expect. The truth is that, at best, this bunch will compete for a spot in a low-tier bowl. It is 3-3 halfway through the season. It plays Iowa State at home and Kansas on the road. If it steals one somewhere along the line, it is at least 6-6 and bowl eligible.
That's really not the point, however. Even bad teams make it to bowl games. There are just too many out there to avoid it.
No, the question is, how bad is this team? More pointedly, is it truly a bad team?
I'm actually not ready to say. Again, it's not a good one. I'm fairly certain of that because the evidence is indisputable. Let's be clear about this: West Virginia has had some awful performances this season. At least two, and perhaps three, of the six have been inexcusable.
You can't lose 37-0 to a Maryland team that is 63 points worse than another team, no matter who that team is.
You can't give up nine touchdowns in the first 10 possessions against anyone, even if it is a Baylor team that might not be finished doing that to opponents.