The Times West Virginian

Bob Herzel

August 27, 2013

HERTZEL COLUMN- Is Big 12’s foundation cracking?

MORGANTOWN — A year ago West Virginia University was celebrating about moving into the Big 12, escaping from the collapsing Big East into what many believed to be the second-best football conference in the country behind the powerful SEC.

But the football landscape keeps undergoing seismic changes and, while the SEC remains at the top (you argue with seven straight national championships if you want), the Big 12’s footing has become shaky. As you look at the conference as it heads into game week, there are cracks in the foundation.

Indeed, the string of spectacular quarterbacks from Vince Young to Geno Smith seems to have run out. Indeed, while West Virginia is having a hard time deciding upon which of its two inexperienced backup quarterbacks to anoint as Smith’s successor, similar situations are a theme throughout the league.

And whereas once the Big 12 — and its predecessor, the Big 8 — would strike fear across college football with the likes of Texas, Oklahoma and Nebraska, as this season begins it has not a team in the Top 10.

Oklahoma State, Texas, Oklahoma and TCU are ranked Nos.14, 15, 16 and 20 in the AP poll.

It ain’t Conference USA, but it ain’t what WVU thought it was getting into either.

The Big 12 would like to think off its depth and history it is as good a football conference as the SEC.

In fact, earlier this year Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops was asked about the perceived gap in the conferences. For whatever reason, this set Stoops off.

“What’d (the Big 12) have, eight of 10 teams in bowl games this year?” he asked.

It was nine.

“So you’re listening to a lot of propaganda that gets fed out to you. Again, you can look at the top two, three, four, five, six teams, and you can look at the bottom six, seven, eight, whatever they are. How well are they all doing?”

Stoops was not foolish enough to argue the fact that the Big 12 was stronger at the top, but his point was throughout a case can be made.

Last year, for example, true Texas A&M — a refugee from the Big 12 — dissected Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl, 41-13, but also last year a Texas team that was far from great routed Ol’ Miss, 66-31. In fact, since 2000 the margin is not far out of line in competition between the two conferences, SEC winning 25, Big 12 winning 17.

“The only way I think you can tell where you’re at is to play them on the field,” Gary Patterson, the TCU coach, said during Monday’s Big 12 coaches’ conference call.

He is a man who practices what he preaches, for he opens with No. 12 LSU while Oklahoma State is opening with Mississippi State.

Patterson spoke freely about the SEC and the differences between the two leagues.

“As a general rule the top six (in the SEC) are big and physical and fast. They rush the passer and don’t have to add people to do it. They have big wide receivers and they have strong tailbacks,” he said. “I see bigger bangers in the tailbacks. You look at the guys at Alabama and look at the guys at LSU, they have speed and size, whereas if you look at our guys, we have guys who can run but maybe not that size.”

What you really have is a pair of conferences with diametrically opposed philosophies, the SEC living off defense, the Big 12 off offense.

Kliff Kingsbury of Texas Tech is a rookie head coach who last year was the quarterback coach at Texas A&M, producing a Heisman Trophy winner in redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel, a Big 12 refugee.

What kind of differences does he see between the conferences?

“Football is football,” he said. “They had a good run. They have good athletes, and I couldn’t be more impressed with coaching jobs, but I feel the same way about the Big 12. The Big 12 is known as a scoring league, I guess. There’s some differences in game management.”

In truth, there probably isn’t a right or wrong way to play the game, and for who is the best, well that is determined when they go head to head.

Texas coach Mack Brown doesn’t believe an early season matchup or two proves anything.

“I think it’s better at the end of the year to look at the body of work from the Big 12. We’ve been a dominant league. One of the great things you learn about football is survival. It’s who ends up on top, not just the first couple of games of the season.

“With things changing during the season, it’s better to wait to the end to see who had the best years.”

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.

1
Text Only
Bob Herzel
  • Saban, family happy at Alabama

    Alabama football coach Nick Saban, whose team opens the season against West Virginia in Atlanta on Aug. 30, denied receiving or turning down this offseason an offer of $100 million to coach Texas, indicating he planned to finish his career as coach of the Crimson Tide.

    July 18, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: ‘Quarterback child prodigy’ comes to WVU amidst very high expectations

    Has West Virginia football coach Dana Holgorsen finally put the arrow he needs in his quiver with the commitment received Wednesday from high school quarterback David Sills, who is a rather extraordinary story and may also just be a rather extraordinary quarterback?

    July 18, 2014

  • WVU kicker Molinari ‘All-American boy’

    West Virginia kicker Mike Molinari may not be an All-American but he is an All-American boy.
    He was honored for that on Wednesday when the Allstate Insurance Company and the American Football Coaches Association announced the West Virginia redshirt senior kicker/punter Michael Molinari is a nominee for the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team.

    July 16, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Smallwood puts future in jeopardy

    The last thing West Virginia’s struggling football program needed as twilight was setting on Bastille Day in Morgantown was to have one of its own whisked off to the North Central Regional Jail on a fugitive warrant from another state, especially a player who had figured to play a key role in the resurrection of a program gone bad.

    July 16, 2014

  • WVU player arrested in Delaware case

    West Virginia University running back Wendell Smallwood has been arrested by university police and is being held at North Central Regional Jail awaiting extradition on a felony warrant out of Delaware.

    July 15, 2014

  • WVU hoping to add two non-conference contests

    West Virginia is nearing the completion of deals to play football games against long-time rival Virginia Tech, now in the Atlantic Coast Conference, and Tennessee of the Southeastern Conference, according to a source close to the negotiations.
    An announcement is expected shortly.

    July 15, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: MLB All-Star game biggest celebration of top athletes

    You will pardon me if I find something else to do when the Pro Bowl rolls around, or if I try to find a “Three Stooges” marathon when it’s time for the NHL All-Star game. As for the NBA All-Star game, I’d rather watch a replay of a four-year-old Uruguay-Ethiopia World Cup soccer match in which I knew the outcome.
     

    July 14, 2014

  • Howes learns to ‘never settle’ as WVU administrator

    You probably don’t know much about Terri Howes, even though she is a rather high-ranking executive in the West Virginia University athletic department.
    “I like it that way,” she said, sitting in a large office at the Coliseum, decorated with pictures and memorabilia, a jar of candy sitting by the door for visitors to dip into.

    July 13, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Rich Rod’s return not impossible

    As you may guess, in the wake of LeBron James’ decision to let bygones be millions and return to his rooters in Cleveland, more than once was I approached with someone wanting to know if this opened the door for a return to West Virginia University of their once-reviled coach Rich Rodriguez.

    July 13, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Trickett best option as a leader

    In the end, West Virginia University’s decision to place the mantle of starting quarterback upon veteran Clint Trickett was less about quarterback than it was about leadership.
    This is not to say that Trickett lacks the talent to succeed as quarterback in coach Dana Holgorsen’s system.

    July 6, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads