What is TCU Hiding in their First 4 Games?

When Sonny Dykes took the TCU Horned Frogs on their fabled run to the National Championship game last year, he had a lot of help along the way. The squad might have easily lost multiple games. Even the one in Morgantown might have been in the bag if just a couple of plays had been different. Even the unexpected change to the backup, Max Duggan, impacted the entire season. Duggan carried the team on his back, seemingly single-handedly scrapping to keep them in matchups like the Big 12 Title Game. That was last year’s Horned Frogs, though. This year, there seem to be a lot of cracks in the gameplay and some chinks in the armor worth exploiting. Even in these first four games, each of the teams has had a way of showing some of the possible areas the Mountaineers could focus on if they want to get out of Ft. Worth undefeated in the Neal Brown era. What Did Colorado Teach? When the Colorado Buffaloes came to Fort Worth to begin the season, many expected this would be a blowout. TCU was ranked 17th in the country then and had enough returning production where they were perceived as at least somewhat of a threat. Did Colorado blow them away with some significant difference in yardage? No. Colorado had 565 yards to TCU's 541 in the Horned Frog’s three-point loss in Game 1. The main difference? Only 55 yards were rushing for the Buffaloes. Sanders and company put up 510 passing yards and lit up the defense. Takeaway: WVU has to incorporate passing more than 22% of the time against opponents with a more robust secondary than Duquesne. What Did Nicholls State Teach? Even though the final score was 41-6, the Colonels of Nicholls State had some gems to reveal in their matchup against TCU. Again, any success that the team found against the Horned Frogs was more in the air than on the ground, doubling the difference between these metrics in their 263 yards of total offense. Surprisingly, vulnerabilities were shown in the turnover game. The two teams tied for lost fumbles and thrown interceptions in the game. Combined with 2 interceptions thrown against Colorado, TCU is up to 3 turnovers from Chandler Morris in Week 2. Takeaway: Our defense can feast on risky passes. What Did Houston Teach? Houston had an unfriendly introduction to the Big 12 thanks to the Horned Frogs, but we do not leave empty-handed. The Cougars put up similar numbers to Nicholls State, with 266 yards of total offense – 225 of those being through the air. Despite being bullied and outplayed throughout the matchup, Dana’s lackluster defense still grabbed an interception and recovered a fumble. TCU is up to 4 on the season in Week 3. Takeaway: Does it seem like they might be giving up pass plays? What Did SMU Teach? SMU was one of the only squads this year that could put up some yards on the ground against the Horned Frogs but still favored passing 258 yards to the 158 they grabbed on the ground. Rivalry games are weird – we should know. All the metrics suggest this one should have been closer than 34-17, and it was headed into halftime with TCU only leading 14-10. You did see the rush defense breaking down as the pass coverage improved for this game. SMU put up more than 100 yards on the ground before halftime, meaning the opportunities exist to destroy the Frogs with a legitimately balanced attack. Takeaway: The rush defense has shown up in the past games, but to improve their weak passing coverage, vulnerabilities could exist if the passing attack is covered. TCU isn’t some wall that West Virginia is about to hit. In fact, I think that with taking the week and working on ball distribution around the field, this game might not be as formidable as it seems. The Horned Frogs are no pushovers – they have only lost one game to a Colorado team that was a lightning bolt running out of the starting line. We must be active and on it all four quarters to survive Fort Worth. Photo Credit: ESPN

West Virginia Back in the Mix in the Big 12

This is a weird and scary time to be in the Big 12. Nothing seems to make sense or be as it was projected or even expected. Teams that should be dominating or competitive find themselves scraping the bottom of the conference, and then you find teams like West Virginia that no one picked for anything fairing pretty well in the recent standings. Granted, we are only through week one, but WVU has been underdogs in all the matchups – so even their position after week one of conference play is a surprise to the nation. Here are the current Big 12 Standings, and then we can look at the matchups for this week and how likely these teams are to stay where they are: BIG 12 CONF W-L STRK 1 Kansas 1-0 4-0 W4 2 Oklahoma 1-0 4-0 W4 3 Texas 1-0 4-0 W4 4 Kansas State 1-0 3-1 W1 5 TCU 1-0 3-1 W3 6 West Virginia 1-0 3-1 W3 7 Iowa State 1-0 2-2 W1 8 BYU 0-1 3-1 L1 9 UCF 0-1 3-1 L1 10 Cincinnati 0-1 2-2 L2 11 Houston 0-1 2-2 W1 12 Oklahoma State 0-1 2-2 L2 13 Baylor 0-1 1-3 L1 14 Texas Tech 0-1 1-3 L1 First place is a three-way tie between Kansas, Texas, and Oklahoma. But that will not stay that way for long. (1) Kansas @ (3) Texas : The Jayhawks are hitting the road for their most challenging test of the year – playing the University of Texas Longhorns in Austin. This is going to be a battle. Slow starts are impossible here, or you get too far behind the score to catch up in front of this massive crowd. With Kansas being ranked now, this has become an unexpected marquee matchup of the Big 12 this week. If Kansas’s defense plays lights out as aggressively as they did against the Cougars this past weekend, Texas might also have its most demanding game ahead. However, the Longhorns are finding their stride and have not wavered much throughout the year. They should be juiced and up for this ranked-on-ranked competition before their home crowd. Predicted Winner: Texas (7) Iowa State @ (2) Oklahoma : Somehow, the Oklahoma Sooners just keep getting some easy beginning-of-the-season games. I don’t think their performance has been tested, and I think it won’t happen this week, either. Iowa State is coming to town, and while fresh off a win against Oklahoma State, Iowa State is outgunned and unprepared for the Sooner attack. This is going to be a pretty decisive victory. Predicted to Win: Oklahoma (4) Kansas State @ (12) Oklahoma State: Unless the Cowboys figure out something fast, this will be a long and brutal season for them. The play on the field has been lackluster, and people like Gundy are in the camp of not leaning on NIL for progress or retention of good players, so this might just be the norm in Stillwater. Either way, Kansas State is coming to town, and they are feeling good after taking out one of the league’s new entrants in UCF. Oklahoma State might fight early, but I think Kansas State handily takes care of business. Predicted to Win: Kansas State (6) West Virginia @ (5) TCU : This will be a game to watch, not just because of our obvious fandom. TCU has been good for years, mostly. Yet somehow, Neal Brown has always had a way of keeping it close – even last year, in our 5-7 finish, we took the National Championship-bound Horned Frogs the distance. Within the last few minutes of the game, TCU only had a 3-point margin of lead. I actually think this team is playing the best football I have seen in a while in Morgantown, and I love it. You figure out how to get some big plays downfield with some sure-handed receivers, and the Mountaineers are gigging. Predicted to Win: WVU (10) Cincinnati @ (8) BYU : Both teams are coming from decisive losses. Cincinnati faced theirs at home against Oklahoma, and BYU suffered theirs in Lawrence to the currently rolling Jayhawks. Even at this point of the season, you don’t know what to expect from either of these squads, which has always been the case with BYU. They have spent much time being decent with flashes of greatness, but never fully getting over that hump. I think that this will be as close as projected, but the Cougars stay relevant for now and squeak out a win. Predicted to Win: BYU (13) Baylor @ (9) UCF : I believe this one goes as advertised. The Baylor Bears are rather humdrum so far beyond a serious stand against Utah in Week 2. The Bears are traveling to Florida to meet a Golden Knight squad looking to shake off their unfriendly welcome to the conference in a loss in Manhattan, KS last weekend. I think UCF lights it up on the ground, especially if Plumlee is back under center. Predicted to Win: UCF (11) Houston @ (14) Texas Tech : WVU fans NEED Tech to have a decisive win in this one for two reasons: one, it shows that we don’t have as many question marks about our own team and some hype is okay, and two, it shows that we are looking at putting it to Holgorsen’s unit after we are done handling business in Ft. Worth. I do believe TTU makes a statement that they are not the bottom of the conference as current standings suggest. Predicted to Win: Texas Tech

Who Is the Big 12’s VT or Pitt?

With the scope of college football changing, rivalries have to change in ways as well. While we will always consider Pittsburgh to be our greatest rival, we also need to consider looking inside of our own conference to find some bad blood that can broil up into some exciting football. Everyone gets up for rivalry games. The players hit harder, the plays matter more, and the fans make all the difference. Geography has always been a decisive factor in most of college football's most heated rivalries throughout the years, but conferences are changing so dramatically, that geography is being pulled away from the equation. Seventy some odd miles separates Morgantown from Pittsburgh, so fans have the ability to make it to either stadium without excessive travel time. However, we no longer share conferences. So the days of fans making the trips to Acrisure Stadium or Blacksburg VA are not as relevant anymore. We are keeping the Backyard Brawl for a bit longer, thankfully. A true testament to distance not mattering in a rivalry game is the yearly battle between USC and Notre Dame. The Irish were also influential in getting the ACC to pick up Stanford, as this would be a continual conference opponent for Notre Dame in the future if they survived the fall of the PAC 12. So now, we look into our own conference to determine some of the matchups we face regularly that could spark a fire in our locker room and keep things interesting. Something to circle every year that is not and out of conference opponents, and a matchup that ultimately gets played for something like the Black Diamond as we do with Virginia Tech or the Iron Skillet TCU does with SMU. I've given this much thought, and based my opinion on these potential in conference rivals on the likelihood of sharing a division with them in the coming years, and the excitement of the contest played so far. For example, even if Oklahoma were not leaving the conference next year, I would not consider them to be a good rival considering we have only beat them once since joining the Big 12 and only a few of those games have been decisively close. While the cards are being played close to the chest, it is believed that the best course of action for the newly developing Big 12 conference is to split into two divisions based on geography much like the Big Ten has. It's possible that this could be a North and South split, but it is much more likely to be East and West. That being said, the line for the eight teams making the cut for the East Division  of the Big 12 would be: West Virginia UCF Cincinnati Houston Iowa State Kansas Kansas State Baylor Making the West Division: Arizona Arizona State Colorado Texas Tech Oklahoma State TCU BYU Utah Given that this is only 7 conference opponents to fill 9 slots in the schedule, each team will play two from the opposing division during the season most likely. Here are the three most likely conference rivalries to nurture if they end up division mates we play every season: #3. Baylor This will be a pretty easy game because we have always gone pretty toe-to-toe with the Bears. The series sits right now at 7-4 with the Mountaineers ahead, but these games have been shootouts in nearly every season. The scoring actually reflects this, with the Bears edging us out slightly 419 to 415 points across the 11 games we’ve played. This could be a fun conference rival considering how often we’ve played spoiler for the others season hopes. #2 Houston Dana might as well have taken the cupboard with him as bare as some say he left the program. Heading to Houston has been largely hit and miss for this polarizing coach, and this year in particular is WVU’s chance to say we didn’t need him and to keep welcoming the Cougars to the Big 12 with some L’s. Dana won’t be able to resist taking some shots at our program, so this should be an easy game to get the squad riled up for. #1 Cincinnati This is a harder initial sell, but Cincinnati is coming into their own as a program to be sure. Our all time record with the Bearcats is 16-3-1 from our Big East days. But by the time Cincinnati was really good, they were not in a Power 5 conference anymore. Fans can and will travel well to Cincinnati and their fans will travel well to Morgantown. This reintroduces geography into the equation and makes the games worth hitting the road for in the coming years. The foundation for the house of college football is constructed of rivalries and traditions. We need to build some drama so we have games on the schedule worth getting worked up about even if we cannot always make a trip halfway across the country to see it played on the road. photo credit:WVU Athletics

Wren Baker Responds to Arizona State AD

WVU Athletic Director Wren Baker responds to Arizona State’s Ray Anderson on Twitter. Morgantown, WV - In case you haven’t heard, Arizona State Athletic Director Ray Anderson claimed that he will not make any trips to Morgantown for Big 12 play. He made it clear that he favors regional opponents, and West Virginia just does not fit that description. Earlier today, WVU Athletic Director Wren Baker sent out a tweet that was clearly a response to Anderson. Baker was short and sweet in his message. “There are two kinds of people in the world. People who love West Virginia and people who haven’t been here.” https://twitter.com/wrenbaker/status/1688202025333293056?s=20   Arizona State is set to join the Big 12 in 2024. If the Sun Devils are slated to travel to Morgantown in their inaugural season, one could certainly bet that Mountaineer Nation will be ready for them. (Photo by WVU Athletics)

WVU Could Win the Big 12 Championship

In the remaining games of its season, there are next to no contests in which the Mountaineers find themselves favored to win, except this weekend against the Duquesne Dukes. What must happen is that WVU needs to change the narrative about the team and put together an electric field product. You look at what worked in the past: the 1988 season when the West Virginia Mountaineers had a National Championship appearance. To truly change the story about the Mountaineer football program and therefore influence metrics like the ESPN FPI predicting the probability of victories, you have to show some dominance in at least one phase of the game. Unfortunately, winning the game that everyone expects you to will not do it, and we missed the chance to upset Penn State on the road. You must evaluate the path of the conference games past the Backyard Brawl looming next weekend. There is no way to sidestep it – you have to win the brawl at home this year. Lose the brawl, you lose a lot of the fans who are now seeing the team drop to 1-2.  Enter conference play 2-1, and then we can discuss the path to the Big 12 Championship Game. Fortunately for WVU, the standards by which the contestants of the Championship matchup are determined matter mostly about performance against the last 9 games of the schedule, and things like Penn State likely will not matter. Best of all, you likely do not need to win out to get there – you just must show up in a big way when it matters. Becoming the Underdog WVU started this season with so little respect, underwhelming prospects from the other conferences joining the Big 12 were given more chance of success. Picked #14 in the conference was a hard pill to swallow, but a solid foundation for a needed chip on our shoulders. Even if you get by a trio of Texas teams and the hype train starts rolling, you’ve got to remember they still don’t expect the team to go the distance. Wearing Them Down In the storied, nearly perfect season of 1988, WVU leaned into its strengths. They found their identity under redshirt freshman Major Harris and blew by everyone – even Penn State. Even with the week-to-week successes of the program through the first three games, West Virginia would still be considered an underdog in the game against Pitt and thought unlikely to get by Penn State and the season's final game against the Syracuse Orange. They did what they knew best – running the ball and leaving Major Harris to do some play extending when it mattered most. Redshirt junior Garrett Greene is underutilized if you compare Harris’ numbers to Greene’s, even on a game-by-game basis. There seems to be little in the way of designed plays for Garrett to mobilize quickly, and instead allow his leg ability to be an afterthought to salvage when receivers are not available. There was never a game in the 1988 season where the offense failed to produce less than 226 rushing yards, but the average for the 11 games was 293 yards. If you reach a point where the run game is that dominant, and you can include some short-range throws, we don’t need a fantastic receiver room for how wide-open they will be at times for deep ball threats. Zero Expectation Season You got who you got, and we aren’t a team built for a national title run like the squad in 1988. However, with the remaining games on the schedule – we might have a chance to sneak in the Big 12 title game with some calculated plays that aren’t god-awful trick scheme abominations in front of 110,000 fans in a hostile stadium. So, every game becomes a situation where you realize they expected us to lose this one, so we’ve got nothing to lose to put it all on the table. If Neal Brown wants to keep his job, he will have to stop being something teams don’t even have to prepare to face. Here’s what’s upcoming: Pitt (Sept. 16th) – Must win. If Brown coaches us out of the Brawl two years in a row, there is no conversation left to be had to keep him around. Texas Tech (Sept. 23) – Tech has beaten WVU yearly with Brown coaching. They know how to beat us and can likely do it again unless we match the intensity. @TCU (Sept. 30) – TCU might have been stood up at home in their opener, but Sonny Dykes did not come to coach in Dallas to lose. This will take all the juice in the tank before our weird bye-week. @Houston (Oct. 12) – This is also a game the fans have to see a victory. The Houston team is not that good, and if Brown is still around at this point, this is a way you can begin your conversation about the climb again. Ideally, you have played close games to this halfway point, and WVU is 5-1 but no less than 4-2. However, if you have lost to any of these Big 12 teams, the likelihood of reaching the Championship in 2023 is 0. Oklahoma State (Oct. 21) – Coming off another long week from the Houston game, the Mountaineers should have ample time to create a system of football designed to beat UCF, but that is good enough to skid by the hit-and-miss Cowboys. @UCF (Oct. 28) –This game will be more important for the standings than initially thought. UCF, like us, has a very mobile quarterback situation with Plumlee. This will be an exciting shootout with some tired defenses. BYU ((Nov. 4) – The Cougars are a coin flip because you don’t know what team you are getting from season to season. Their years of independent play made schedules soft, and I expect this to be a nice get-right game for WVU if UCF gives us a loss the week before. @Oklahoma (Nov. 11) – No road to the Big 12 Championship doesn’t pass through Norman in their final...

Ready for Pitt After this Weekend

When former Big East foes Pittsburgh and Cincinnati face off this weekend in Pennsylvania, WVU fans should take notice. You can spare some time from the simultaneous Duquesne game to tune into the broadcast to see who the dominant squad is. Currently, Vegas has the Panthers up on the Cincinnati Bearcats with a 7-point spread, but this might change with more conversations heading into the weekend. These teams kick off at 6:30 p.m., Saturday night on The CW. This will be the station's debut in ACC football. Both of these teams had a big first week, Cincinnati taking down Eastern Kentucky by a handsome margin and Pittsburgh knocking off Wofford 45-7 in their home opener. This will be the second home game in a row for Pitt before they travel to face off against WVU the following weekend. You can bet that footage from this game will be instrumental in how our staff plans defensive and offensive strategies for both games, but instantly for the looming Backyard Brawl. Pittsburgh is generating some buzz on the AP Poll, and a win against Cincinnati might not be all that glamorous, but some stumbles from teams in the Top 25 could see the Panthers ranked before their trip to Morgantown. Wouldn’t we just love to spoil all that ranked hype by letting CJ Donaldson run loose? If you haven’t grabbed your authentic jersey for the Backyard Brawl, many vendors still have some to make sure you are decked out for the game with the most significant implications for our pride, our state, and the potential future of Head Coach Neal Brown. Here’s a reminder of what the jersey looks like for the 2023 Backyard Brawl:

Where Will WVU End Up in the Conference?

Week one showed Big 12 fans a lot of teams’ hands regarding how the rest of the season might unfold. Based on the results, it is essential to look at how these squads matched up against their opponents on opening weekend and if their stock has risen or fallen. Let’s break it down: Week One Losers: TCU – For a team that went on the road and took it to a severely struggling Colorado team last year, TCU became one of the projected many victims for Deion Sanders’ impressive new squad. TCU kept it very tight, so expect the Horned Frogs to bounce back. Texas Tech – Tech was favored by nearly two touchdowns in this contest and got caught looking ahead to Oregon and sleeping on a strong Wyoming team. Baylor – Favored by 27.5 points, Dave Aranda’s team was stunned by the Texas State Bobcats at home in Waco this weekend. The final score in this one was 42-31. West Virginia – You probably caught this live if you read the Voice of Motown. WVU were serious underdogs on the road and fell to stout defense and well-orchestrated offensive drives. Week One Winners by Margin: Oklahoma (+73) – The Sooners were up immediately in this game and never checked their rear-view mirror. They ended up 73-0 when the final whistle blew. Cincinnati (+53) – For many questions about how Cincinnati might perform this year joining the new conference, they had a dominant showing against an FCS opponent in Eastern Kentucky. UCF (+50) – Another newcomer to the Big 12, UCF showed up earlier in the week for a night game, absolutely blinding Kent State with offensive success. Kansas State (+45) – Undoubtedly, the defending Big 12 Champions would show up strong in Week 1. Southeast Missouri State could never get on the board, and the Wildcats won 45-0. Kansas (+31) – Everyone was waiting with eager anticipation to see Lance Leipold’s squad get off to a start this year as they did in 2022. While Missouri State might not be quite Big 12 caliber competition, 48-17 is decisive. Texas (+27) – I don’t think Texas felt the need to get too bent out of shape to coast past Rice. While the score might not be as grabbing as Oklahoma’s, Rice was handily and visibly outgunned for the entire game. Iowa State (+21) – Our former competition for the bottom of the Big 12 had a decent showing in Week 1 against in-state competition Northern Iowa. Iowa State looked competent to move the football and might be a team to watch if their successes continue. Oklahoma State (+14) – Central Arkansas went on the road and gave Oklahoma State a bit more of a hassle than they expected. While the result was a two-touchdown victory, it was much harder fought than it likely should have been. BYU (+14) – There are still plenty of question marks about BYU for when they get into conference play. Sam Houston State of the Western Athletic Conference is a mid-pack team that BYU should have been able to dominate at home. Houston (+3) – This game was underwhelming, mainly due to poor play on both sides, leading to a flat 17-14 contest for Holgorsen’s squad. A win’s a win, though. Potential End-of-Year Big 12 Standings My all-too-soon and rash opinions about the quality of football in these Week 1 games, with Week 2 looming full of all new surprises, leads me to this new projected Big 12 Standings at the end of the season: Texas Oklahoma Kansas State UCF TCU West Virginia Kansas Texas Tech Oklahoma State Baylor Houston Iowa State Cincinnati BYU (photo by The Intelligencer)

One Mistake and You’ll Miss This Weekend’s Game

As part of the media agreement with ESPN, games for nearly all of the Big 12 teams are featured on the exclusive, ESPN+ app and service throughout the year. One of the selections for the West Virginia Mountaineers is the upcoming contest this Saturday night with Duquesne. If you are not an ESPN+ subscriber, you will be missing out on the live broadcast. The full lineup of ESPN+/Big 12 Now games this weekend include: Southern Utah at BYU (Big 12 Now on ESPN+), 2:00 p.m. SMU at Oklahoma (SoonerVision on ESPN+), 5:00 p.m. Duquesne at West Virginia (Big 12 Now on ESPN+), 5:00 p.m. Nicholls at TCU (Big 12 Now on ESPN+), 7:00 p.m. Make sure your login credentials are up-to-date and you are ready to sign in at game time this weekend to watch Garrett Greene lead the Mountaineers to a decisive home victory in Week 2.

Week 1 Big 12 Games That Give WVU a Look at What’s Ahead

Every Big 12 team sees action in this busy Week One lineup, but many of these matchups matter little the Mountaineers who will not face Texas, Iowa State, Kansas State, or Kansas on our regular season schedule. Maybe we face them in the Big 12 Championship this year, right? While some of these schools are off to the races against opponents that are vastly outgunned, some of these competitions might be worth watching with the conference schedule mere weeks away. You can skip out on Oklahoma hosting Arkansas State, Baylor hosting Texas State, BYU hosting Sam Houston State, and Central Arkansas at Oklahoma State. These games are fodder for the schedule and barring something electric, should go exactly as predicted. Here are the Big 12 matchups you need to track this weekend: Colorado @ TCU – 12:00 PM on FOX This matchup is interesting in that it is part of a home and away series that is wrapping up this year before Colorado becomes a conference opponent next season. Last year, TCU and their storied run to the National Championship began in Colorado, facing the Buffaloes and resulting in a 38-13 win for the Horned Frogs. Colorado went 1-11 last year, but after some overhauling in the offseason could be poised for an upset in a very highly hyped year before joining the Big 12 competitors in 2024. Eastern Kentucky @ Cincinnati – 3:30 PM on ESPN+ You might look at this and go – really? Yeah. EKU finished 7-5 last year in their conference, and while certainly nowhere near the competition and parity of the Big 12, they might have the talent to keep this one closer than it seems. Cincinnati was left in a complete rebuild mode when Luke Fickell made the move into the Big Ten as the Head Coach of Wisconsin. They are projected, not unlike the Mountaineers, to be in the bottom portion of the final conference standings, which might make this one an exciting game to preview what’s to come for the Bearcats. UTSA @ Houston – 7:00 PM on FS1 Dana Holgorsen and company went 8-5 overall last year, but UTSA made for a shaky start. While the Cougars came away with the win in overtime, Houston fans were alarmed at how UTSA went the distance. The betting line for this game currently has UTSA favored by 1.5 points, which has given Houston a chip on their shoulder as the UTSA Roadrunners hit the road on a mission for revenge. Keep an eye on this one, it may very well be the kind of dogfight WVU expects in mid-October on the road. Texas Tech @ Wyoming – 7:30 PM on CBS Texas Tech shocked a lot of teams last year, including the Mountaineers with their fast-paced and unrelenting form of offense. Hitting the road in Week 1 is a trial, even if you are favored by more than two touchdowns. Any given Saturday, and the Red Raiders are looking to get Tyler Shough out there with his third chance to lead the offense, with both of the prior seasons ended early by injuries. This is a coin flip because while lopsided on paper, Wyoming boasts double digit returning talent on the defensive side of the ball that could make the game less of a gimme for the boys from Lubbock, TX. Either before the matchup of Week 1 with the WVU Mountaineers heading into Happy Valley to face (7) Penn State or when you can tear your eyes away from the screen, be sure to follow some of these developing storylines. (photo by CBS Sports)

A Strong Debut for Newcomers UCF

Everyone knows not to expect much from games one and two before you begin the more brutal slate of heading toward conference play – unless you are the Mountaineers. UCF padded their schedule with an easy non-conference opponent of the Kent State Golden Flashes. In this contest, the UCF Golden Knights were favored to win by a spread of 35.5 points. So, while the media gave as much attention to Kent State pulling an upset as our own Week 2 matchup against Duquesne University, there are a few takeaways that Neal Brown (barring any fallout as the head coach) must be prepared to face: Plumlee Is a Power Five Quarterback Many believed UCF might have trouble adjusting to a Power Five (Four?) conference, but you would not know it to look at the quarterback play. Granted, this was a soft opponent, but Plumlee alone contributed to 371 yards of total offense with his legs and arm. This is an elusive threat that is anything but a stand-and-deliver pocket passer. It is important to remember that John Rhys Plumlee led UCF in rushing yards last season and was listed among the top ten rushers in the AAC for 2022. Receivers Share the Load Xavier Townsend and Javon Baker shared the lion’s share of targets, with 6 and 7, respectively. These two top targets for the Golden Knights combined for 140 yards in the season opener. Baker would tally up 56 receptions last year in the run-heavy Knight offense, combining these catches for nearly 800 yards. He will also be a contributor this season with his likely final year of eligibility. Defense Might Not Be Their Strong Suit Everyone is quick to bring up the potentially electric offense when they speak of the University of Central Florida, but there is considerably less chatter about the defense. Regarding turnovers alone, UCF ranked in the bottom third of the conference in the metrics for the past season. Heading into the Big 12 will undoubtedly show them some formidable offenses that can capitalize. Issues with Ball Security As exciting as the fast-paced Golden Knight offense might be, their success in the past several seasons has been a high-risk/high reward. For the most part, this has been worth putting the ball in places or situations where interceptions or fumbles might be more likely. Kent State was not a worry for UCF, yet the Golden Flashes still managed to force a fumble and rack up two interceptions in the drubbing Thursday. Despite the cracks in the knights' armor, it is easy to see why many analysts have placed the team in the middle of the pack in the Big 12 despite their needing to rise to stiffer competition. Playing all the newcomers to the league this season, this could be one of the more challenging road games besides the emotionally charged trip to Houston two games before heading down the coast. The West Virginia Mountaineers do not make this trip to tangle with the Golden Knights until October 28th. By this time in our schedule, we can hope to have an established offense and defensive personality and be making our mark as anything but a team picked to finish last in the conference. (photo from AZCentral)

Big 12 Reportedly Interested in Remaining Pac-12 Schools

The Big 12 is reportedly interested in the four remaining Pac-12 schools.   Irving, TX - While the Big 12 has stated that they are “done” with expansion at this time, this has not stopped speculation as to where the conference could go next. Earlier this evening, Jim Williams, a former television producer from Washington D.C., shared that he has received reports that the Big 12 is now interested in adding the four remaining Pac-12 schools. https://twitter.com/JWMediaDC/status/1695605155398348861?s=20 Stanford and Cal have been vetted by the ACC in recent weeks, but have yet to have an answer. Williams claims that Stanford is asking for an answer from the conference this week. Stay tuned to The Voice of Motown for updates. (Photo by WVU Athletics) 

Arizona State’s Athletic Director Apologizes to Wren Baker and WVU

Arizona State Athletic Director Ray Anderson has apologized for his comments on WVU earlier in the week. Tempe, AZ - Earlier this week, Arizona State Athletic Director Ray Anderson made some comments about Morgantown and WVU that were questionable to say the least. When discussing his university’s move to the Big 12, he listed Morgantown by name and proclaimed that he had no interest in making the trip when WVU and the Sun Devils meet in athletics. “I’m not going to Morgantown.” While many did not appreciate the comment, Anderson made it clear that he meant nothing by it, and that he has also called Wren Baker to apologize. In an interview on the Bickley & Marotta podcast through Arizona Sports, Anderson spoke about the comments and his apology to Baker and the Mountaineers. https://twitter.com/azsports/status/1689302303197855744?s=46&t=cXIQ4JQG-pp-P6qrRwLwjw   “Although those comments were said in jest and taken out of context, they were clumsy comments from me that I sincerely regret…” ”So I called Wren on Monday and we had a chance to talk and I explained the context. He graciously accepted my apology and certainly said he’d pass it on to their President Gordon Gee…” Arizona Sports has a full report on this situation on their website. https://twitter.com/azsports/status/1689310664547086336?s=46&t=cXIQ4JQG-pp-P6qrRwLwjw (Photo by WVU Athletics)

Big 12 Receives First of Four Expected Applications

Photo Courtesy Mark Humphrey Associated Press   The University of Cincinnati has just submitted their application to join the Big 12 Conference. This comes just weeks after the first reports came out that the conference had four teams in mind to add. BYU, Houston, and UCF are expected to join Cincinnati in sending applications. https://twitter.com/Enquirer/status/1435671154128216064?s=20

WVU looks to turn horns down and intensity up against Texas

West Virginia tries to rebound from its worst performance of the season when the Mountaineers host Texas in a Big 12 showdown Monday night. The game tips off at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPNU. The No. 14 Mountaineers (14-3, 3-2 Big 12) were blown out for the first time this season in a 84-68 loss at Kansas State on Saturday. They return home looking to cleanse the stench from their performance in Manhattan, Kan., against unranked Texas (12-5, 2-3). The Longhorns are coming off of a 66-57 home loss to No. 3 Kansas on Saturday. The Longhorns possess a balanced offensive attack, led by junior guard Matt Coleman III (6-foot-2) with 12.0 points a game. He also leads Texas in assists at 4.3 per game. Coleman is one of four Longhorns to average double-figure scoring alongside Courntey Ramey (11.1 ppg), Andrew Jones (10.4) and Jase Febres (10.1). Junior forward Jericho Sims (6-9) leads Texas on the glass with 8.1 rebounds a contest and adds 9.7 ppg in scoring. Depth figures to be an issue for Texas against a deeper Mountaineers squad. Coleman, Ramey and Febres all average more than 30 minutes a game and the Longhorns starting five all average more than 24 minutes of floor time. By contrast, no Mountaineer averages as many as 30 minutes a game. The entire Texas starting five average more than anyone for West Virginia. Adding the long road trip and the quick turnaround from the Longhorns tough game against Kansas Saturday to this mix and the Mountaineers have a good chance to wear down Texas. WVU is a 9 point favorite. ESPN's BPI gives the Mountaineers a heavy analytical edge in the game.

Bear minimum – Pasting by Baylor shows how far WVU has to go

West Virginia lost, 70-59 at No. 1 Baylor on Saturday. It was the No. 14 Mountaineers seventh loss of the season, their sixth in Big 12 play. But Saturday’s loss wasn’t like the other six. For the first time this season, the Mountaineers (18-7, 6-6 Big 12) were overwhelmed by their opposition. There was no energy disparity, no sloppy fundamentals, no cold shooting, no poor adjustment to playing on the road, no referee errors to attribute as the cause of WVU’s defeat. Yes, WVU could have played more inspired. The Mountaineers could have used a better shooting effort – another awful effort, 19-for-55 on Saturday. WVU has still to show it can win a conference road game against anyone outside the Big 12 basement. If you’re among the conspiracy-minded folks, insert your own “the refs are out to get the ‘Eers!” collusion plan here. But none of those are why WVU lost on Saturday. The reason Baylor (23-1, 12-0) beat West Virginia is Baylor has better players. The Mountaineers had no answer for the Bears quickness and athleticism. While Baylor went through and around the bigger Mountaineers, WVU looked like it was playing the game in work boots. Baylor had no problem with West Virginia’s superior size. West Virginia had not answer for Baylor’s superior quickness. The Bears are good. Ridiculously so. They’re the number one team in the nation and have been for more than a month. Saturday was their 22nd-straight victory overall and 12th-straight Big 12 victory (both school records). The craziest stat reflecting how dominant – and how consistent – Baylor has been? The Bears haven’t trailed in any home game by more than four points. Saturday’s matchup at Baylor would answer how well the Mountaineers stack up against probably the best team in America. The answer? They don’t. The Mountaineers performance in Waco, Texas, on Saturday also offers fans a dose of uncomfortable clarity. The first 24 games showed that West Virginia is an NCAA Tournament-worthy team. Saturday’s loss shows the Mountaineers aren’t Final Four contenders. Fans should adjust their expectations accordingly. This is a young team (most inexperienced in the Big 12). While nothing is guaranteed in college basketball, if the right combination of players return, next season has the chance to be special for WVU. But the Baylor defeat shows how far this team has to go.