MORGANTOWN -- Saturday's game with Cincinnati will go a long way in determining what kind of season West Virginia University's football team has.
While the Bearcats aren't on the same level as Wisconsin, they will present plenty of problems for the Mountaineers.
West Virginia coaches say Cincy may possess more athletic defensive backs than the Badgers, and most college football pundits consider Bearcat quarterback Gino Guidugli a far better passer than Wisconsin's Brooks Bollinger.
Those facts in themselves should present problems for WVU.
The wide-open receivers Rasheed Marshall missed last week may not be wide open this week. And one shudders to think what might happen if WVU doesn't get pressure on Guidugli.
Fortunately for the Mountaineers, the Bearcats run the same kind of offense the Mountaineers do and nothing Cincy does should be of surprise.
West Virginia should be able to mount a pass rush, and hopefully, Marshall will not be out-of-sync in his passing. He doesn't seem down about his poor first-half performance in Madison.
But for WVU's offense to get in sync, the offensive line will need to sustain blocks long enough for Avon Cobourne, Quincy Wilson and Cassel Smith to find running lanes.
Mountaineer coach Rich Rodriguez told his players this week's game at Nippert Stadium isn't a make-or-break game to their season. But the players believe otherwise.
They know a win could launch them to a successful season.
After viewing Wisconsin, I figure the Badgers are the third or fourth best team on WVU's schedule. Losing to them is no big deal.
But of the 12 teams on WVU's schedule, the Bearcats are probably no better than the sixth-or-seventh best team on the slate. A loss to them would not bode well for the remainder of the season.
With a surprisingly weak East Carolina team up next, a beat-up Maryland squad, a woeful Rutgers team and a Syracuse team which may not find itself until the middle of the season, on the horizon, the next four games look winnable.
Syracuse lost to Cincinnati two seasons ago at Nippert Stadium. So I'm sure the Bearcats believe they can beat the Mountaineers on their home turf.
But one has to wonder if the Bearcats might not get caught looking ahead.
They'll host Ohio State at Paul Brown Stadium the following Saturday.
Sports writer Greg Talkington can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org