PITTSBURGH - It was nearly four months ago that Jock Sanders got a look at how the Big East coaches voted in their preseason poll and expressed, well, dismay that the group could objectively look at West Virginia and Pitt and choose the Panthers to win the Big East this season.
That Pitt coach Dave Wannstedt all but agreed - "It makes no sense to me, to be quite honest with you,'' he said at the league's preseason media day - was pretty much lost over time. Not so Sanders' comments.
"The crazy thing about it to me is Pitt's got everybody back and we've got everybody back and we beat Pitt [last year],'' Sanders said in early August. "We'll show [WVU is the best] this year.''
Well, through the first 10 games of the season, those coaches are on track. Pitt leads the league and can win the Big East's automatic BCS bowl berth by winning its last two games.
Sanders, though, still has a chance to be proven right.
Despite frustrating losses to Syracuse and Connecticut, West Virginia (7-3, 3-2 Big East) can keep its league title and BCS bowl hopes alive today in the 103rd Backyard Brawl. The noon game at Heinz Field against Pitt (6-4, 4-1) won't decide the title, but it will set a major piece of the puzzle into place.
Sanders isn't backtracking on his comments.
"People took it the wrong way. And I'm pretty sure they were offended at Pitt,'' Sanders said this week. "But I wasn't saying it in that kind of way. I was just saying that with this conference being so balanced, how could you just give it out to a team that lost to us and lost to Cincinnati [to end last season]?
"I wasn't trying to down-talk them at all. I'm not that kind of person. And I congratulate them for having the No. 1 spot right now.''
If West Virginia wins today, Sanders will enjoy a measure of satisfaction in that he was correct at least to a degree. But, truth be told, his statements weren't meant as much to stoke any fires among the opposition as they were designed to do so for his own team.
In other words, there it is. Now, back it up.