MORGANTOWN - It's been obvious for weeks that West Virginia hasn't wanted to be part of the Big East anymore.
It seems the Mountaineers' football team might be taking that literally ... and way too early.
So, because WVU hasn't played anywhere close to expectations, it's likely too late to salvage a conference title and BCS berth before moving to the Big 12 and facing five teams that are in one or both national polls this week.
West Virginia (6-3, 2-2) is in a three-way tie for fourth place in a league in which it was the overwhelming preseason choice to win a title.
WVU goes to league-leading No. 23 Cincinnati (7-1, 3-0) Saturday, and the Mountaineers get a break in that the game isn't at the on-campus Nippert Stadium, but at downtown Paul Brown Stadium ... not exactly the "Jungle" even when the NFL Bengals are playing there.
Then WVU comes home to face Pitt (4-5, 2-2) in a Thanksgiving Friday morning or night game (11 a.m. or 7 p.m. kickoff), a "Backyard Brawl" of Big East disappointing foes. Six nights later, USF (4-4, 0-4) - looking for anything to salvage a season - awaits WVU.
If the Mountaineers can't win out and get oodles of help, they're going to have more December questions than this one:
Does anyone have the phone number for the Belk Bowl?
In a 38-35 loss to Louisville (5-4, 3-1) on Saturday, WVU suffered its second home defeat of the season. The program hasn't had two Mountaineer Field losses in a single season since 2003 (Wisconsin, Cincinnati).
WVU allowed more than 30 points for the fifth time in nine games. That hasn't happened since five occurrences in 2002. It only happened three times, total, in the past four seasons (2007-10).
It's not all defense, however. It's special teams. It's even offense. WVU has as many turnovers as it's gained (14), and has won the turnover battle only twice (Bowling Green, Rutgers).
Nine games into Coach Dana Holgorsen's debut season, there seems a lot of detachment among the Mountaineers. Even the body language, starting with Holgorsen, is not good.
When a safety (Darwin Cook) takes a bad angle and misses a tackle that turns a Louisville in-the-flat pass into 26 yards right before halftime, and the head coach, an "offensive guy," walks as far away from the line of scrimmage as possible in the coaching box and just stands there, arms folded, don't you think that kind of "I'm no part of this" reaction is bookmarked by the players?
The sense I have is that the WVU offense and defense remain two separate teams, not just different units. It has to affect special teams play, too.
The Mountaineers don't play smart. They don't exude that toughness, that blue-collar element that was a hallmark when former Coach Rich Rodriguez was building a program in Morgantown. They throw the ball all over the lot - and do it well - but what else?
When WVU gets 533 yards total offense at home as it did Saturday, it should win.