Who thinks the West Virginia University Football Team is getting a whole lot of positive mileage out of its 70-33 shellacking of Clemson in the Orange Bowl?
This longtime fan and observer thinks that Orange Bowl result has definitely caught the attention of the media, fans and coaches of West Virginia’s new conference, the Big 12. The Mountaineers open fall camp this week and begin preparation for their inaugural season in the Big 12. I guess what is interesting to me is the seemingly gracious acceptance the new league has bestowed upon WVU.
Last week was the Big 12 media days in Dallas and it seemed coaches and media were falling all over themselves to compliment West Virginia and welcome the school to the conference. I guess that is par for the course as these things go. It would be more surprising if there were some sort of smear campaign directed toward the Mountaineers. It only makes sense that the new hosts would be congenial at a media function. There will be plenty of time for animosity to develop in due course.
Anyway, back to the respect WVU is getting. The all Big 12 pre season team was announced just prior to the Big 12 media days and low and behold, there was WVU quarterback Geno Smith on the first team. Not only that, but the WVU senior was also named the pre-season offensive player of the year! That is a very nice compliment especially when the Big 12 has a total of five quarterbacks out of 34 on the Davey O’Brien watch list, one of which is Oklahoma’s Landry Jones.
The O'Brien is presented annually to the top college quarterback and is the oldest national quarterback award. The award is named after TCU quarterback Davey O'Brien, who, in 1938, became the first player to win the Heisman, Maxwell and Walter Camp trophies in the same year.
West Virginia receiver Tavon Austin was named to the first team as a receiver and punt returner. I will say this about Austin, he is extremely talented as both a receiver and punt returner, but I will be surprised if Austin gets many chances to return punts, because it is foolish for any team to consider kicking to him.
The other pre season list that reflects respect for WVU is the pre season media poll that has West Virginia ranked second to Oklahoma. Oklahoma was a solid choice for first with 32 of 41 first place votes, but somewhat surprisingly WVU was a solid second with seven first place votes. Only TCU and Kansas State received a first place vote.
Think about this for a minute. What would you have thought several years ago had someone told you that in 2012 West Virginia would not only be in a conference with Texas and Oklahoma, but they would have seven first place votes in a poll where Texas had zero?
All of this is quite fun to digest, for now. The reality is that this pre-season hype doesn’t win games. This isn’t the Big East any more, and while it appears WVU is well equipped offensively to play at the Big 12 level, there is a good chance the defense will find the Big 12 offenses quite a hand full.
2012 Big 12 Football Media pre-season poll
1. Oklahoma (32) 396
2. West Virginia (7) 339
3. Texas 291
4. Oklahoma State 267
5. TCU (1) 260
6. Kansas State (1) 257
7. Baylor 162
8. Iowa State 121
9. Texas Tech 116
10. Kansas 46