West Virginia is Not at the Bottom of the Big 12

Neal Brown

MORGANTOWN, West Virginia — Before the start of the season, Neal Brown said, “We are not the 14th best team in the league and we will not finish at the bottom of the standing.” Today, Brown reiterated what he said earlier, saying, “We were picked 14th in the conference. This is our first chance we get to prove the so-called experts wrong.”

And so far, Neal Brown is right. Call it however you like; current standings do not lie. WVU is keeping league with the middle of the Big 12 Conference right now in the same conversations as 2022 National Championship hopefuls TCU and even defending Big 12 Champions Kansas State. Many can argue we have had a more challenging run than the others getting to the conference play, having to take on (7) Penn State in the season opener on the road in State College, and most recently playing in a heated rivalry game that draws national attention when it happens – The Backyard Brawl.

WVU is 2-1 against Pennsylvania teams this year, and largely the same competitors in our conversation might not have been tested yet this year. Let’s look at the current Big 12 standings after Week 3, bearing in mind that when the records are tied this early, the alphabet determines the order. West Virginia could as easily be 7th in the conference as we are listed at 10th. So, let’s evaluate:

                              CONF                           OVERALL

TCU 1-0 W1 2-1
BYU 0-0 3-0
Kansas 0-0 3-0
Oklahoma 0-0 3-0
Texas 0-0 3-0
UCF 0-0 3-0
Cincinnati 0-0 2-1
Kansas State 0-0 2-1
Oklahoma State 0-0 2-1
West Virginia 0-0 2-1
Baylor 0-0 1-2
Iowa State 0-0 1-2
Texas Tech 0-0 1-2
Houston 0-1 L1 1-2


Let’s begin with TCU, who has had a bit of an unstable start in their schedule this year. They began with an unexpected loss to Colorado, now ranked, then beat up on an outmatched Nicholls State, to finally fairly decisively win the first official conference game of the year against Houston.

BYU really hasn’t played anyone besides an unproven Arkansas who, realistically, is about mid-level SEC most years. They will be a wildcard moving forward but remain unbeaten, giving them #2 spot based on the alphabet.

Next, you get Kansas. This has been something a long time in the making for this team to go 3-0 in out-of-conference play. Interested to see how the Jayhawks match up against some of the Big 12 competition when they open up against newcomer BYU.

#16 Oklahoma has yet to lose and likely will remain unbeaten, traveling to play Cincinnati in the Big 12 home opener. This is one of the alarming matchups WVU has later in their schedule and one to circle as an important one for league standing at that point of the year.

#3 Texas is off to the best start it had in several, several seasons. The hype train is real, and the Longhorns will be hard to stop. Do not expect Baylor, even at home, to give the Longhorns much pause in their path to the Big 12 title game.

UCF follows up, and in this grouping, I would say realistically, it goes Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, UCF, and BYU for the unbeaten. Central Florida has a lot to prove and is arguably the most talented of the new four teams in the league. UCF will turn many heads if they manage to travel into Manhattan, KS, and walk out 1-0 in conference play.

Cincinnati starts the grouping of 2-1 performers, including the Mountaineers. While the Bearcats also boast a win over the Pitt Panthers, they also turned around and lost overtime to Miami (OH) this past weekend. This rivalry game for the Victory Bell has been played 127 times, and the Miami Redhawks had not seen a win since 2005. It is hard to say what sort of team Cincinnati might be, but I’d be willing to wager a rolling Oklahoma can exploit some weaknesses in the conference opener.

Kansas State isn’t looking like their old self this year, at least not yet. Beyond their rivalry game, which they lost to Missouri this past weekend, the Wildcats have gone up against SEMO and Troy, squads that stood no chance against Power 5 conference football. UCF will be a challenge and one that very well could send this team to the bottom of the standings (at least for a bit) after the first round of conference games.

Oklahoma State is also a team we don’t know what to expect from one week to the next. None of what is on tape is very inspired football, the least of which is the drubbing they received this last weekend from South Alabama. Fortunately, they get a somehow worse team in the Big 12, Iowa State, to dip their toe into conference play.

West Virginia rounds out the 2-1 teams, and an early impression is that this squad is much better as a whole unit than anything Brown has put together in years past. This is not the team likely to make a run for the Big 12 title, but it will not be the doormat initially projected at the beginning of the year. We open up against one of the worst possible week 1 conference foes, bringing Texas Tech to Morgantown. If the Mountaineers handle business this week and start 1-0 in the Big 12, look out conference.

Baylor begins the bottom of the conference barrel with the 1-2 teams. They have had a hard start, losing to a low level FBS team in week one, taking a ranked team the distance and losing in week 2, and then finally getting their footing in the third matchup against poor Long Island University. Unfortunately, the road is tough when this week’s conference play begins. Texas University is coming to town, and they are ranked #3 in the country for a reason.

Iowa State is really on a struggle bus right now, too. While they had a fairly competitive match, as they normally do when competing for the Cy-Hawk trophy with Iowa University, the rest has been pretty flat. That includes the game they won initially against Northern Iowa. The icing on the cake was the loss to the Group of Five Ohio Bobcats this past weekend in a low-scoring 10-7 defeat. Depending on the team that shows up, they stand a chance against an Oklahoma State team licking their wounds from South Alabama.

Texas Tech is scraping toward the bottom of the pile, but this is a little misleading. Wyoming turned out to be pretty decent, even giving Texas University a bit of a pre-halftime run for their money. Their other loss was to the deservingly-ranked Oregon University Ducks. Now, they are looking for a get-right game to bring them back to .500 on the season, and they are headed to Morgantown to give us what they got.

Houston kind of deserves to be down here. I am happy to see it is them over some of the other teams in the Big 12 because we WVU fans can be a petty group. But this has been a wild ride for the Cougars under Dana Holgorsen this year, narrowly escaping UTSA, then losing to Rice University in overtime, and finally getting his welcome to the Big 12 against TCU to drop the first conference game of the year. They can’t rest easy on Sam Houston this next weekend, either. That defense held BYU to 14 points, and I think BYU is vastly more talented than Houston, so we could be looking at 1-3 for the Cougars before rejoining Big 12 competition the following week on the road in Lubbock.

Tune in for WVU to take on Texas Tech at 3:30 PM this weekend on ESPN+