MORGANTOWN - Bill Stewart is loath to buy into the notion that a college football team - any team - can be accurately judged based on a performance in one or two games. The ebb and flow of the sport is just too unpredictable.
Take his own West Virginia squad and the current dichotomy of the Big East, for example. In the space of eight days, the Mountaineers went from clearly the team to beat in the Big East to one that fell 19-14 at home against Syracuse. That came on the heels of new Big East flavor of the day Pitt's 45-14 rout of the Orange at the Carrier Dome.
"My God, we ought to just cancel the Pitt game,'' Stewart said Tuesday without needing to point out the mathematically obvious, which is that the Panthers might be assumed a six-touchdown favorite when the teams eventually meet just after Thanksgiving. "I probably won't be able to get 30 guys on the bus to go up there.''
Of course, if there ever was a time for Stewart and the Mountaineers to adopt the attitude that one or two games do not a season make, this would be it. Instead of being ranked in the Top 25 in both the polls and the BCS standings, West Virginia now finds itself struggling even to maintain much respect. And it is all because of that one performance against the Orange.
The Mountaineers (5-2, 1-1 Big East) try to get back on track Friday night in a game against Connecticut (3-4, 0-2) in East Hartford.
But as Stewart was quick to point out, his was not the only Top 25 team that has lost games in recent weeks to teams that were huge underdogs. For instance, while the Mountaineers were losing to the Orange for the first time since 2001, Texas was falling to Iowa State for the first time ever. That's the same Texas team that a week earlier had manhandled then-No. 5 Nebraska.
Of course, it was also the same Texas team that earlier in the season was routed at home by UCLA, which actually serves even better to illustrate Stewart's point that these games are not played in a vacuum and that just as one or two terrific performances do not make a contender, one or two lousy ones don't necessarily make a flop.
"How do you explain South Florida scoring nine points [against Syracuse] and six points [against West Virginia] and then scoring 38 against Cincinnati, the two-time defending Big East champs?'' Stewart said. "If I could ever get the formula for what lies behind the ears [of players], I wouldn't be coaching football.''
In a way, Connecticut had its own upset moment last week in losing 26-0 at Louisville. True, the Huskies did not have a Top 25 ranking or anything close to it and are suffering through a mess at quarterback. Still, being shut out by Louisville was unexpected.