The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

October 20, 2011

HERTZEL COLUMN: Nothing certain in Big East race

MORGANTOWN — There seems to be a feeling on the street, one that has grown, perhaps, out of the dilemma that has been created out of the conference realignment craze, that West Virginia University is — at least on the football level — superior to those that surround it in the Big East.

The people who buy their groceries at Kroger, shop at Walmart or Target, grab a bite at Mickey D’s in hopes of winning Monopoly, reacting to being left out of the realignment up to the moment are reacting as you would expect, arching their backs and saying, “Syracuse and Pitt aren’t any better than we are here at West Virginia.”

They point to their football team and its 5-1 record and No. 11 national ranking, the only nationally ranked team in the Big East. They point to the record-setting offense in a league that outside of Cincinnati considers a field goal worthy of a celebration.

WVU people do not expect to win the Big East football championship this season ... they are already making plans for their BCS bowl trip.

From what anyone has seen so far, it is highly possible that they are right, but the other coaches in the Big East aren’t about to concede anything yet ... not even that arch-rival team from the north that has suddenly defected to the hoity-toity Atlantic Coast Conference.

See, it is October and, as Pitt coach Todd Graham points out, “The conference is won in November.”

Right now the race is in its infancy. Yes, Graham’s team is playing poorly, but it has only one conference loss. Only one team is 2-0, Rutgers, while WVU and Cincinnati are 1-0. The other five teams already have lost a game ... but not hope.

The conference, you see, always seems to have had parity, at least since Miami jumped to the ACC.

Since 2003, only Cincinnati in 2009 and WVU in 2005 have been undefeated Big East champions. Three years since then two losses tied for the conference title.

It is a league where the unexpected is expected and where the only upset is when there are no upsets.

“There are no bad teams in the Big East,” Paul Pasqualoni, the veteran Connecticut coach who spent many years battling for titles at Syracuse, said. “Some teams will have better records than others, but they all have good players and are well coached. It’s going to be a dogfight.”

Does WVU look the best?

Certainly, for it seems to have the most balance between offense and defense and has the most big-play players on offense, game-breaking types like Tavon Austin or Stedman Bailey and the most proficient quarterback in Geno Smith.

But that does not mean that quarterback Zach Collaros at Cincinnati can’t have a big day head-to-head with the Mountaineers and put 40 points on the board or that his running back, Isaiah Pead, can’t have a 200-yard rushing game in a head-to-head showdown.

The fact is that everyone believes they have a shot at winning the title, maybe not as the frontrunner, but just because the league is so balanced. It was a lesson driven home last year when UConn, which some rumored was about to fire coach Randy Edsall in mid-season, wound up winning the title and going to the BCS bowl.

Even Pitt, which has been dismal, is talking about that one goal still remaining and giving the Panthers something to shoot for.

“We are starting a new season,” coach Todd Graham told those on the Big East media call Monday. “We have obviously underachieved, but we have the goal of being Big East champion out there.

“There’s nothing easy about it. Every week we have to bring it. We have to put ourselves in position. When we get to the latter part of November, that’s what it’s all about. We have to win out. We have to go 5-0.”

Because this conference comes with no guarantees, WVU coach Dana Holgorsen has his team concentrating only on the next game, not yet thinking championship or making any boasts that would make them a target and put pressure on them.

He understands that if his team wins out, it will be Big East champion and that even one conference loss may not derail it, but to think that way is like celebrating a touchdown before the play is run, and that normally is not a very sound approach to the game.

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com. Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.

1
Text Only
WVU Sports
  • ‘Cheating pays’ remark should draw attention

    When Bob Bowlsby, the outspoken commissioner of the Big 12, presented his opening-day picture of the future of college sports in Dallas for the annual media day gathering, his bleak comments were not unexpected.

    July 23, 2014

  • WVU, N.C. State to meet in football

    Following a trend of creating non-conference games against regional opponents, West Virginia University has reached agreement with North Carolina State to play a home-and-home football series in 2018 and 2019.

    July 23, 2014

  • WVU, Tennessee finalize 2018 meeting

    West Virginia University and Tennessee have finalized their season-opening, Sept. 1, 2018, meeting in Charlotte, N.C., at Bank of America Stadium.
    Both teams will receive $2.5 million for the game and have a chance to earn up to $3.2 million with ticket incentives.
    Each team will buy 12,500 tickets and set aside 2,000 of its allotment for students.
    The game, played on the home field of the Carolina Panthers of the NFL, is being put on by the Charlotte Sports Federation.

    July 23, 2014

  • Holgorsen’s program hits turning point

    You can almost sense, as you watch West Virginia University football coach Dana Holgorsen sit before the gathered Big 12 media contingent answering questions in the Omni Hotel in Arlington, Texas, that he senses his program has reached a turning point.

    July 23, 2014

  • Fleming, Billy.jpg WVU’s Fleming signs contract with Yankees

     Second baseman Billy Fleming of the West Virginia University baseball team has signed a professional contract with the New York Yankees, foregoing his upcoming senior season.
    “Ever since I was a little kid, it’s been my dream to play professional baseball,” Fleming said. “It is still surreal that I get to chase my dream, but I am ready to get after it. I loved my three years at WVU and want to thank all the coaches that made it possible for me to achieve my dream.”

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Big 12 Media Days Foo_time(1).jpg Trickett’s play key factor for Mountaineers’ success

     In the end, it comes down to the quarterback.
    Always has with Dana Holgorsen, always will.
    Quarterback is the offense with the West Virginia University coach. When he does well, the team wins – almost always.
    When he does poorly, the team doesn’t stand much of a chance.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Growing demands on college athletes concerns Wyant

    Fred Wyant, one of the greatest quarterbacks in West Virginia University’s history, has lashed out at today’s growing demands on college athletes.
    The 80-year-old Star City resident led the Mountaineers to a 30-4 record as the starter from 1952-1955. Percentage-wise, it’s clearly the best-ever record by a QB in school annals.
    Wyant, a member of the WVU Sports Hall of Fame, came here after graduating with honors from Weston High School. That’s where WVU coach Art “Pappy” Lewis signed him to a four-year scholarship.

    July 23, 2014

  • Holgorsen’s program hits turning point

    You can almost sense, as you watch West Virginia University football coach Dana Holgorsen sit before the gathered Big 12 media contingent answering questions in the Omni Hotel in Arlington, Texas, that he senses his program has reached a turning point.

    July 22, 2014

  • Growing demands on college athletes concerns Wyant

    Fred Wyant, one of the greatest quarterbacks in West Virginia University’s history, has lashed out at today’s growing demands on college athletes.

    July 22, 2014

  • WVU’s Fleming signs with Yankees

    Second baseman Billy Fleming of the West Virginia University baseball team has signed a professional contract with the New York Yankees, foregoing his upcoming senior season.

    July 22, 2014

Featured Ads
WVU Sports Highlights
NDN Sports
House Ads
NCAA Breaking News
NCAA Photos