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Mountaineers Become Bearcats Fans for BCS

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MORGANTOWN -

The last time West Virginia wanted Butch Jones to win a football game this badly was the 2007 Gator Bowl. Only back then, Jones coached for the Mountaineers.

On Saturday at noon, he will be pacing the sidelines at Nippert Stadium, doing his best to turn a tie between WVU and Louisville into a three-way tie that includes Cincinnati.

As excited as the Mountaineers were following their win over South Florida that clinched their share of the conference title, they'd be thrilled to see the Bearcats get fitted for a ring as well.

When it's phrased that way it doesn't sound nearly as good as this: Cincinnati beating Connecticut will create a scenario in which the team with the highest BCS ranking will play in a BCS bowl game. West Virginia would be that team.

"[I] definitely want to go to a big bowl, but regardless, I'm happy with what the team's done and at the end of the season, we pulled through. We'll have fun wherever we go," says WVU kicker Tyler Bitancurt.

Bitancurt's attitude is the right one, but that doesn't mean there wouldn't be disappointment on the Mountaineers' side if the Bearcats can't pull out the win.

They've put themselves in a situation where control of their destiny was shared with other teams. A week ago, WVU hoped South Florida would beat Louisville and Cincinnati would lose either of its final games. After the Bulls failed to pull the upset, the Mountaineers instead became fans of the Bearcats winning each of their contests.

Now that WVU has handled its side of the equation, the players on the team are making no secret of their affinity for the black and red that will fill Nippert in a day's time.

So where will the players be Saturday at noon?

"On the couch watching Munchie [Legaux]," Geno Smith says of his fellow Big East quarterback. "Let's get it Munchie."

It's funny that WVU's defense knocked Cincinnati starting quarterback Zach Collaros out for the season in their meeting just a few weeks ago and now it hopes the backup scenario it created can pull through for its own benefit.

Julian Miller hails from Ohio and has plenty of friends on the Bearcats roster. As he understands it, he could head back for the game and support Cincinnati in person, but instead he'll stay in Morgantown and perhaps offer a word of encouragement to the players who now hold his team's fate.

"I want to say something to them, but I don't want to get like, ‘Oh yeah, let's go Cincinnati,'" says Miller. "Definitely, I'm going to wish those guys luck on their senior night. It's their day to go out there and play ball. Of course, I'm hoping they win so the opportunity's there for us. I think we definitely deserve it the way we've played and I'm just going to be out there rooting for them."

WVU fans in Tampa spoke about their plans for Saturday's game, many of them planning to meet with other Mountaineers in the area to watch another meaningful matchup.

They didn't know as they talked about the game in the tailgating lots that it would actually matter, but after seeing a last-second Tyler Bitancurt field goal, their plans are still on track.

Bitancurt himself, though, isn't quite sure he'll be joining anyone at a watch party.

"I haven't decided if I'm going to watch it or not because I'll probably get a little nervous," he said after the win over USF.

Junior cornerback Pat Miller feels differently. Another Mountaineer hero Thursday night with a pick-six, Miller may get a few teammates together for some good vibes at lunch.

"We're all going to be tuned in watching Cincinnati and UConn game and hopefully everything works out right for us," says Miller. "I'm going to be with some of the players like me, Brodrick [Jenkins] and Sted[man Bailey]. A lot of people are going to be together watching the game. We might have a little party, have a little fun for the game."

Dana Holgorsen will be watching, too. He wants to know if he'll be spending Christmas in Charlotte or if he'll have a January bowl game to prepare for. As a football coach in the Big East, Holgorsen would have watched the game anyway, but the added significance makes it a must-see event.

"Cincinnati's a good team, they're well-coached, they're a good team," says Holgorsen. "They don't need our words of wisdom to want to win the game to be co-Big East champs as well. I think they'll be playing pretty hard."

Butch Jones has expressed many times how much his opportunity at WVU meant to him, how his son was born in Morgantown and the family still holds it in high regard.

For the first time since that Gator Bowl over Georgia Tech, Jones has a chance to win one for West Virginia. And he'll have its support every step of the way.

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