MORGANTOWN - That West Virginia's football team finds itself today squarely behind the eight ball is not unfamiliar territory.
It might be somewhat surprising, but certainly not unfamiliar.
After all, it was after the games of the first weekend of November of 2010 that the Mountaineers found themselves 5-3 overall and just 1-2 in the Big East. They trailed a 3-0 team in the Big East standings, Pitt.
They had fallen out of the national rankings and had little reason for optimism. That WVU would eventually rally and tie for the Big East championship with Connecticut and Pitt was pretty much an anticlimax. UConn still managed to win the league's automatic BCS bowl berth and the Mountaineers were relegated to a Champs Sports Bowl in which they laid a giant egg against North Carolina State.
So, will this year be any different? Can it possibly be?
Well, about the only thing the Mountaineers have left is hope that it can.
"We've got to keep playing,'' said senior defensive end Julian Miller, whose past three seasons have all been pretty much like this one - high expectations followed by disappointment in the end. "We've got three games left and we've been in this situation before. We just have to keep on playing.
"Everybody knows how it goes in the Big East.''
How it goes right now in the league that West Virginia is desperately trying to escape after this year is this: Cincinnati has replaced last year's Pitt at the top of the standings with an unbeaten 3-0 mark. West Virginia, the overwhelming preseason favorite, has now lost two of three to teams that were two-touchdown underdogs - Syracuse and Louisville - and seems no more than an afterthought in the race for the league title.
Just like last year.
After Saturday's stunning 38-35 home loss to Louisville, WVU is 6-3 overall and 2-2 in the league. It has a game Saturday at noon at Cincinnati with a chance to again turn the tide, but that alone won't do it. The Bearcats (7-1, 3-0 after a 26-23 win at Pitt Saturday night) essentially have a two-game lead over everyone else in the conference. They literally have a two-game lead in the loss column over WVU, Pitt, UConn and Rutgers, and they own a one-game lead and the tie-breaker over Louisville, which at 3-1 in the league is the only one-loss team.
Then again, the situation looked just as dire a year ago and WVU nearly pulled it off. In fact, had UConn's Dave Teggart missed a 52-yard field goal on what was nearly the last play of the last game of the season at South Florida, the Mountaineers might have been BCS bound.