MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- For the second consecutive week, West Virginia coach Bill Stewart will run his team through a succession of practices with a large, unknown factor -- who will be the other team's starting quarterback?
As the Mountaineers prepared for Cincinnati last week, before beating the Bearcats, 37-10, quarterback Zach Collaros' status was a bit in doubt as he was hampered by a bruised knee. There was a chance the Mountaineers could have seen Chazz Anderson against the Bearcats -- and had to prepare for him and Collaros -- but Collaros ended up playing from start to finish for the Bearcats as West Virginia frustrated him with five sacks and two interceptions.
Now, as the Mountaineers (6-3, 2-2) ready for a trip to Louisville (5-5, 2-3) at noon Saturday, West Virginia's defense will need to go one better.
They will have to prepare for three quarterbacks.
Louisville could start seniors Adam Froman or Justin Burke or go with sophomore Will Stein, according to the official depth chart released by the school.
Burke started his second consecutive game last week, losing to South Florida in overtime. He was under center in place of Froman, who hurt his leg against Pitt Oct. 30. And then there is Stein, a former walk-on who hasn't attempted a pass this season, but started two games last year, including a game against the Mountaineers. He would seem to have the longest odds of getting the start.
It would seem the largest variables are the injury to Froman and how far he has come along in his rehabilitation.
Louisville coach Charlie Strong wanted none of the line of questioning.
"No update on Adam," Strong said Monday on a conference call, refusing to elaborate at all and abruptly cutting off his answer.
For Stewart, even as his defense is rated fourth in the country in overall defense, apprehension comes with the unfamiliarity.
"The unseen is always kind of shaky, when you don't know what you are going to get," Stewart said. "But I know whoever plays is going to be good, and our defense is worried about that because Froman, Burke and Will Stein, those guys are all good quarterbacks. They are hitting on all cylinders for the most part. ... it all starts at their quarterback position, and we will just have to wait and see until we get there who starts the game and who plays.
"They are playing well, there is belief there, they are big, strong-armed guys. They are veterans and they have been around the block, so to speak. ... I respect each quarterback very, very much, and it is going to be a very hard day for our defense because older guys are hard to confuse.
"We respect whoever is going to play for them. I assure you."
Under Stewart -- and counting the Fiesta Bowl victory he led the team to as interim coach -- the Mountaineers are 7-9 in games away from Mountaineer Field, and that includes 2-1 in bowl games, played at neutral sites. In true road contests, West Virginia is 5-8 under his command and 1-2 this season with losses at LSU and Connecticut and a narrow, overtime escape for a victory against a Marshall team now 4-6.
So, what can be done to get the trend reversed?
"There is no magic formula," Stewart said.
"You just take your game to wherever it is. And that's the mark of a good team, when you can go on the road and win.
"I think that most people, generally speaking, have a better record at home. That is why the home crowd is so special to you and to the young men playing out in the arena.
Colin Dunlap: firstname.lastname@example.org .