Big 12 football: West Virginia transition difficult
I wrote about West Virginia’s Mountaineer mascot for the Wednesday Oklahoman. You can read that column here.
Jonathan Kimble is the West Virginia student who is the current Mountaineer, and Kimble told me something interesting the other day.
While talking about how much he is enjoying the Big 12, Kimble also gave an insightful description of West Virginia’s gridiron odyssey. The Mountaineers have gone from being 5-0 and ranked fifth in the BCS to 5-4 and still scrambling to achieve bowl eligibility. If West Virginia loses at home to OU on Saturday, the Mountaineers will not yet be bowl eligible on Thanksgiving Day.
“It’s a high level of football,” Kimble said of the Big 12. “Every week it’s a battle for us. If we don’t play our best every week, we clearly see what happens.”
Some schools switch conferences and are well-equipped to do well. Houston won the Southwest Conference in 1976, its maiden season in the league. The ’76 SWC was a good league. Texas, Arkansas and Texas A&M all were strong teams in 1975.
Arkansas had just one winning conference record its first six seasons in the SEC, 1992-97, when the SEC was an excellent league but was not the monster it is today.
Nebraska has done comparatively well in its two Big Ten seasons. Miami has been a dud in the Atlantic Coast Conference after dominating the Big East.
So you never know. But moving up in class is tough, and the Big East to the Big 12 is definitely an upgrade. The margin for error is small for West Virginia. The Mountaineers defensively were not prepared for the Big 12, an offensive juggernaut league.
West Virginia has been in a league with Rutgers, South Florida, Connecticut, Syracuse and Pittsburgh. Solid teams frequently.
But not the Big 12, which provided three rookie quarterback starters in the NFL this season. Not the Big 12, a league in which a team can go to a third-team quarterback and still produce a prolific offense. Not the Big 12, which had the 2011 Heisman Trophy winner with a new-age offense and the 2012 Heisman apparent with an old-school offense.
It’s going to take West Virginia some time to adjust. And until that day arrives, the Mountaineers will be scrambling to stay abreast of its new foes.
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