The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

College Sports

October 15, 2012

Trying to clear a cluttered mind after a bad day for the Mountaineers

Normally on Sundays, I spend part of my day listening back to quotes from postgame West Virginia football interviews and piecing together a story to wrap up the weekend’s action.

But since I watched Saturday’s game at home on my television, instead of in person, there were no postgame interviews to sort through. I asked plenty of questions, but nobody was there to field them on the other end.

Instead, I was left only with my thoughts about WVU’s 49-14 loss on the road at Texas Tech.

So here’s a look at some of what’s been swirling around my cluttered mind. And if you see a mention of diapers or Elmo, just remember, I spent the other part of my Sunday watching my 10-month-old son.

WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN

It may be cruel and unusual punishment for Mountaineer fans to look at exactly what was lost with the poor performance in Lubbock, Texas, on Saturday, but it’s also impossible to ignore.

Had WVU taken care of business against Texas Tech, the country would be watching when Kansas State visits Morgantown this Saturday.

In all likelihood, Kansas State would have been No. 4 and WVU No. 5 in the Associated Press Top 25 — perhaps Nos. 3 and 4, respectively, in the USA Today Coaches Poll. Both would have been undefeated, and sole possession of first place in the Big 12 would have been on the line.

ESPN’s College GameDay would have had a difficult time choosing to visit any location other than WVU, and the atmosphere may have been something the likes of which Mountaineer fans have never experienced.

THE REALITY

All of that was thrown out the window when WVU’s offense suddenly went missing in action and the defense played hide-and-go-seek while Texas Tech had the football Saturday.

But the next game on the schedule is still a great opportunity for the Mountaineers. As much as they lost on the road at Texas Tech, they can gain almost all of it back with a win in front of the home fans Saturday night.

Knocking off the nation’s No. 4 team would put WVU right back in the national limelight, and likely put quarterback Geno Smith back at the top of the Heisman Trophy race.

A win over the Wildcats would also put the Mountaineers back in a tie for first place in the conference and a trip to a BCS bowl back into play.

A loss, however, could send WVU rolling downhill fast.

So although it doesn’t have the same national appeal, Saturday’s game is still a huge one for the boys in gold and blue — or gray.

WHY I HATE THE POLLS

Taking a look at this week’s Associated Press Top 25 gives me heartburn. It’s a perfect example of why college football’s champion should be determined on the field instead of by voters.

First, let’s start with WVU and Texas Tech. The two teams play in the same conference, have identical records and just played Saturday, with Texas Tech winning 49-14.

But the Mountaineers, at No. 17, are one spot ahead of the Red Raiders, who came in No. 18. Any explanation as to how that makes sense?

Now, let’s look at who’s ahead of those two.

Florida State is at No. 12. Which win was it that proved the Seminoles deserved to be that high? Was it Murray State or Savannah State? Maybe Wake Forest? Is a loss to Texas Tech (WVU) or Oklahoma (Texas Tech) somehow worse than a loss to N.C. State? Or are the voters simply keeping Florida State close to the top because that’s where they had them when the season began?

Then there’s Georgia at No. 13. Sure, the Bulldogs knocked off some of college football’s elite in Buffalo, Florida Atlantic and Vanderbilt, but they were also blown out by the only top 25 team they played, South Carolina. Texas Tech obviously fared much better against its top-ranked opponents, splitting with Oklahoma and WVU.

So why are the Red Raiders so low? It’s simple. They started lower, based on the opinions of a few badly-dressed sports writers at the beginning of the year. It’s the same reason Michigan is ranked No. 23, despite losing its only two games against ranked foes — Alabama (41-14) and Notre Dame (13-6) — and its best win coming against Purdue. And it’s a perfect illustration as to why the polls are a joke.

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