A year ago at this time, the future of WVU football couldn’t have been more uncertain. Pitt and Syracuse had announced plans to go to the ACC. TCU would soon announce they were bolting for the Big 12 before playing a down of football in the Big East. The Big East was about to be left even further behind. WVU was at risk of falling through the cracks of conference realignment. We needed a way out, and fast.
January 04, 2012; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers fans cheer in the 2012 Orange Bowl against the Clemson Tigers at Sun Life Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Barr-US PRESSWIRE
WVU fans anxiously awaited for news that we were going to a power conference. I couldn’t help but scour the internet for any bit of information I could get. First, rumors of joining Pitt and Syracuse in the ACC swirled. Then, it seemed certain that an SEC invite was in the bank (I still think it was until TV $$$ came into the equation and put Missouri ahead of us, but that is another story). We even had a press conference scheduled to announce our move to the Big 12 and that had to be cancelled at the last second.
And even after the Big 12 move was announced, there was uncertainty as to when we would actually make the move. WVU was insistent that it was 2012. The Big East insisted 2014. Talk of the Big 12 passing on us if we couldn’t move by 2012 was going around. We had to sit through 4 months of lawsuits and more rumors before everything was settled.
All those anxious moments were worth it in the end though. WVU got on a lifeboat sent from the Midwest and landed itself in the best conference in the country. The future of WVU athletics has never been brighter. This Saturday, the Big 12 Era of WVU football officially kicks off. As fans who put their heart and soul into the program, we all owe it to ourselves to recognize how big of a move this is and enjoy everything that goes along with it.
I have been waiting for this Saturday’s game ever since the schedule came out. This is our first crack at “big boy” football. Gone are the days of winning conference games and dropping in the rankings because the programs are so mediocre. Gone are the days of playing only 1 or 2 ranked teams per year. Gone are the days of getting no respect from the nation. For the first time since the ACC raid of the Big East almost 10 years ago, WVU is in a legit football conference.
We are going from playing average to below average teams week after week to playing the best in the country. WVU started the 2011 conference schedule with games against UConn, Syracuse, and Rutgers (does it get more boring than that?). This year, the conference schedule kicks off with games against #24 Baylor, #10 Texas, and Texas Tech. Quite a change.
Last season, only one of our conference opponents was ranked (Cincinnati, #18). This season is a different story, as the potential exists for 8 conferences foes to be ranked when we play them: right now, 6 conference opponents are ranked and 2 more are on the cusp of the top 25. Everyone, myself included, used to complain about playing boring games week after week and dreamed of playing a schedule like this. It just doesn’t get any better than this.
You want games against marquee opponents you say? How’s Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU, and Kansas State every year sound? A lot better than UConn, Rutgers, South Florida, and Cincinnati, that’s for sure. Remember the atmosphere at the LSU game last year? That will happen 5 times a year now.
Following the game this Saturday against #24 Baylor, top 10 team Kansas State comes to Morgantown in 3 weeks followed by potential top 10 team TCU two weeks after that followed by potential top 10 team Oklahoma two weeks after that. 3 home games in a row against top 15 and potentially top 10 teams? Wow! And to top it all off, sandwiched in between is our first away game in the Big 12 against #10 Texas next weekend.
The next time we play a team that is not currently getting any votes in the coach’s poll is December 1. That’s two months of football against top 25 caliber teams coming our way. We’ll see more quality opponents in the next 2 months than we’ve seen in the past 5 years.
In addition to the vast improvement in quality of opponents, we will enjoy many more benefits. National exposure for the program is at an all time high. QB Geno Smith is getting lots of national attention and is considered the front runner for the Heisman. We will be seen on national TV all the time now- through the first 5 games of the season, we will have 4 nationally broadcast games and look to have at least 4 more nationally televised games through the remainder of the season. We are attracting the top talent in the country to come to Morgantown to play for national titles every year. The list goes on and on and on..
So enjoy, Mountaineer fans. Enjoy this season and soak it all in. After years of suffering through the Big East and craving for better competition and more respect, we finally have it. Our future is secure, and this is just the beginning. Savor every moment of the first season of Big 12 football. We certainly deserve it.