MORGANTOWN -- For Rich Rodriguez, Sunday can't get here fast enough.
The second-year West Virginia coach won't know until then just where is 9-3 football team will spend the holidays.
"We figured it would be Jacksonville, Charlotte or Phoenix, but Pitt took care of Phoenix for us," Rodriguez said, referring to the Panthers acceptance of an Insight Bowl bid. "I had no idea Pitt would lock that up so fast."
With that, West Virginia is a virtual lock for the new Continental Tire Bowl in Charlotte on Dec. 28 if Notre Dame does indeed knock the Mountaineers out of the Gator Bowl.
"Of course, finishing second in the Big East, we feel we belong in the Gator Bowl," Rodriguez said. "It's a Jan. 1 game and it's in Florida, which is where most of our players want to go.
"But I'm sure the game in Charlotte will be a good one if we go there."
The best chance for a Gator slot would be for Notre Dame to gain a BCS bid. That will likely happen if UCLA beats Washington State Saturday. If Washington State wins, then the Irish will probably be relegated to the Gator Bowl. The Cotton Bowl tried to work a deal that could bring the Irish its way but apparently failed in its attempt.
The Big East's other two bowl-eligible teams, Virginia Tech and Boston College, are also in limbo. If Notre Dame gets into the BCS, then Tech would likely go to the Continental Bowl and BC to the Walnut Diamond San Francisco Bowl.
If not, then one of them would go to the Walnut Bowl and the other possibly to the Motor City Bowl in Detroit.
"It's pretty much a mess right now," Rodriguez said.
Meanwhile, West Virginia players have spent most of this week running, lifting weights and studying for final exams, which are next week.
"We have our quarterbacks and receivers out throwing some to keep the timing down," Rodriguez said. "But we won't start practicing until Dec. 14, the day after finals are over."
West Virginia would play North Carolina State (10-3) in the Gator Bowl. Possible Continental Tire Bowl opponents include Virginia (8-4) and Georgia Tech (7-5), with Wake Forest (6-6) a longshot.
"We can't lose either way," said WVU athletic director Ed Pastilong. "We're in the perfect spot. We can go to Jacksonville to a great bowl like the Gator or we can go to a great city like Charlotte, where many of our fans can drive to within three-to-five hours.
"Charlotte is a big airlines hub too, so it's pretty easy for all of our fans to get to."
Sports writer Greg Talkington can be reached at 626-1444 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org