The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

College Sports

November 2, 2012

How important is game against TCU Saturday?

After spending most of my Thursday evening analyzing what each of Friday and Saturday’s high school football games meant to the teams involved — when it comes to the postseason — I decided to do the same for the West Virginia University football team, which hosts TCU at 3 p.m. Saturday on FOX.

Figuring out the Mountaineers’ postseason prospects is a little different. College football teams don’t get 8 points for an SEC win, 7 for a Big 12 win and 4 for a victory over a Conference USA squad, and it’s not like the NFL, where a team’s record and standing in its conference determines when and where its postseason journey will begin.

When it comes to college football bowl games, a team’s ability to sell tickets and its attractiveness to a television audience are every bit as important as the outcome on the field.

Despite all that cloudiness, one thing is clear. When WVU takes the field at Milan Puskar Stadium Saturday, it’s facing a must-win situation.

As it stands now, the Mountaineers (5-2, 2-2 Big 12 Conference) are sixth in the Big 12. Assuming the bowls picked only off the standings, and not on the issues listed above, that spot would put WVU in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas against the Big Ten’s No. 6 team, Northwestern or Wisconsin if the season ended today.

But there’s a lot of football left to be played. With a win on Saturday, it would be easy to see the Mountaineers gaining back the confidence that helped them to a 5-0 start. They still have a Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback, and two All-America caliber wide receivers, and there are winnable games left on the schedule against Oklahoma State (5-2), Iowa State (5-3) and Kansas (1-7). Those three victories would push WVU to eight wins, and if the team starts racking up the points it scored early in the year, who knows what could happen when Oklahoma (5-2) visits Morgantown on Nov. 17?

Assuming Kansas State (8-0) keeps up its current pace and wins the conference, a quality stretch run could land the Mountaineers somewhere between No. 2 and No. 4 in the league. The bowl possibilities under that scenario would be the Cotton Bowl — against the SEC’s No. 3, which could be a team like LSU, South Carolina or Florida — the Valero Alamo Bowl — against the Pac 12 No. 2, which could be Oregon State, Stanford, Southern Cal or, dare I mention, Arizona — or the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl against the Big Ten’s No. 4 or 5 — possibly Michigan or Nebraska.

But imagine the other scenario, a loss to TCU. Such a result would put the Mountaineers at 5-3 and in the throes of a three-game losing skid. Confidence would be low, and so could the faith in the coaching staff, especially if the defense continues to allow the video game-like numbers it’s given up in losses to Texas Tech and KSU.

That team, the 5-3 one, would probably be in trouble on the road against an Oklahoma State club with a more than capable offense. It would surely be no match for Oklahoma, and wins against two of the bottom teams in the league in Iowa State and Kansas wouldn’t be a certainty.

WVU could be lucky to make it to a bowl game in that situation, and if it does, the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, against one of its old foes from the Big East, would be the most likely destination. Somehow a matchup with Cincinnati or Temple in the snow just isn’t as intriguing.

So how important is Saturday’s game in Morgantown? It depends. Which state do Mountaineer fans, players and coaches want to visit in the middle of the winter — New York or Texas?

— E-mail: chuffman@register-herald.com and follow on Twitter @CamHuffmanRH.

1
Text Only
College Sports
  • Miners stop Lorain County 5-1

    The West Virginia Miners received a strong outing from starting pitcher Patrick LaGanke, and scored one run in each of the final five innings to defeat the Lorain County Ironmen 5-1 Thursday.

    July 25, 2014

  • Some topics of interest to area fans

    Tom Hart, a widely known retired Morgantown High School administrator and coach, continues to excel as one of the nation’s top bowlers

    July 25, 2014

  • 072514 WVU Replacing Sims a challenge for WVU

    Every year, almost every college football preview publication available lists one key statistic that most use to evaluate the prospects for any given football team — returning starters.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • WVU’s Worley clear starter at cornerback

    There were few bright spots in West Virginia University’s 4-8 football campaign last year, and even fewer on the defensive side of the football, where the Mountaineers gave up more than 455 yards and 33 points per game.

    July 24, 2014

  • Holgorsen to appear on ESPN special

    West Virginia University football coach Dana Holgorsen will appear Wednesday on ESPN’s annual mid-summer college football coaches’ “car wash” — in which guests appear across multiple programs and platforms over one day.

    July 23, 2014

  • Holgorsen: WVU getting comfortable in new league

    Dana Holgorsen remembers the glory days of West Virginia University football — the ones that included conference championships and BCS bowl wins. In fact, he was part of one of those, leading the Mountaineers to a Big East championship and an Orange Bowl victory in his first season as head coach in 2011.

    July 23, 2014

  • 072314 miners Miners take series with Paints

    The way the West Virginia Miners see it, they don’t have the luxury of planning for tomorrow.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • 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

  • WVU to kickoff 2018 season against Tennessee in Charlotte

    The Charlotte Sports Foundation (CSF) announced Tuesday morning that it has secured a regular season college football game for the city of Charlotte pitting the University of Tennessee against West Virginia University.

    July 22, 2014

  • Can summit of bigwigs really solve college athletics issues?

    I see where the Big 12 Conference is going to host in New York City what will be titled “A State of College Athletics Forum.”

    July 22, 2014

Saints Training Camp