We have reached the end of the first round of our Big East football madness. Let's check the result of our fourth and final first-round game:
No. 4 West Virginia (2007) vs. No. 5 West Virginia (2006)
Score: West Virginia (2007) 51, West Virginia (2006) 49, 3OT
I spent a long time evaluating this matchup. Way too much time for a fake football tournament. But that's how close I see it.
Of course, both teams have most of the same players and finished with the same number of losses against similar schedules. The 2006 team was a little bit better running team (303 yards per game vs. 297 yards per game for the 2007 bunch) and a little better against the run (93.3 yards allowed per game vs. 112.9). Both teams had similar passing production numbers, but the '07 crew was better defending the pass (188 yards allowed per game vs. 243 allowed from the 2006 version). The 2007 team also had a better turnover margin (+13 vs. +9), more sacks (40 vs. 31) and allowed 3.6 fewer points per game. The 2006 team let opponents score at least 35 points three times that year, while the 2007 team never allowed more than 28 in a game.
But it's close. As in triple-overtime close. Clearly, the 2007 team had a little bit better defense, plus the addition of Noel Devine to the offensive mix helps out. Those Mountaineers make one more stop, on a two-point try in the third extra period, to escape.
And so we're down to the Final Four. No upsets yet, which defies the term madness. But the next round should be interesting. Here are the matchups:
No. 1 West Virginia (2005) vs. No. 4 West Virginia (2007)
No. 2 Louisville (2006) vs. No. 3 Cincinnati (2009)
Not having studied these closely yet, I can honestly say I don't know who would win either game, or who will ultimately come out on top. All four of these teams were good enough to play for a national title.
We'll talk about it next week when college basketball's Final Four approaches. Start hitting me with your thoughts about these games now.