The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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July 18, 2013

Going the wrong direction

WVU picked to finish eighth in 10-team Big 12

Last summer, media representatives were hyping the West Virginia University football team, and the Mountaineers were predicted to be a force right away, picked to finish second in their first season in the Big 12.

After a disappointing 7-6 finish, which concluded with a lopsided loss to Syracuse in a cold and snowy New Era Pinstripe Bowl, expectations are lower  this season than they’ve been for quite some time.

The 2013 Big 12 Football Preseason Poll was released Thursday, and the media representatives who cover the league picked head coach Dana Holgorsen’s club above only two other league members, Iowa State and Kansas. The Mountaineers were picked to finish eighth out of 10 teams.

Oklahoma State was picked to win its second Big 12 championship. The Cowboys received 15 of 43 first-place votes and 365 points. Their state rival, Oklahoma, was picked second, receiving eight first-place votes and 355 points. The Sooners have won the Big 12 title eight times.

TCU, which will also be playing in the league for its second season, received nine first place votes and was picked third. Texas was fourth, receiving eight first place votes, followed by Baylor, which picked up a pair of first-place votes, and Kansas State, which tied with OU for the conference championship last year. The Wildcats received the remaining first-place vote.

The final four in the league were Texas Tech, WVU, Iowa State and Kansas, none of whom received a first-place vote.

Coaches and players from each of the league’s teams will be in Dallas, Texas, July 22 and 23 for the annual Big 12 Football Media days.

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Former Mountaineer quarterback Marc Bulger is used to performing athletic feats in front of the television camera. The Pittsburgh, Pa., native spent 11 seasons in the National Football League, playing in a pair of Pro Bowls and winning the 2003 Pro Bowl MVP. He threw for 122 touchdowns and 22,814 yards over that period, twice being named the St. Louis Rams’ Most Valuable Player.

His latest venture, though, will have nothing to do with throwing a football.

Bulger, who threw for more than 8,000 yards in his WVU career, a record that was only broken this past season by Geno Smith, will be one of a number of former NFL Players taking part in the “Big Break NFL,” which will be televised by the Golf Channel in October.

Joining Bulger will be Jerry Rice, Chris Doleman, Tim Brown, Al Del Greco and Mark Rypien.

Bulger is an accomplished golfer, as well, playing many of his rounds at Oakmont Country Club in Pennsylvania, Boone Valley Golf Club in Missouri and The Concession in Bradenton, Fla. According to the Golf Channel’s website, he’s a 4-handicap.

“Since I have only been retired from the NFL for two years, Big Break was a great opportunity to feel the competitive rush that all of us NFL players miss once our playing days are over,” Bulger said in a release about the show. “It was an amazing experience getting to compete against true NFL legends in another sport we all have a passion for, while at the same time fulfilling a second passion of mine, helping our men and women in uniform. Big Break exceeded all of my expectations.”

The show was filmed at the Dorado Beach Resort in Dorado Beach, Puerto Rico. It will premier on The Golf Channel on Oct. 8 and air on Tuesday nights.

The NFL legends joined to competitors, one male and one female, to form three-person teams. The winning NFL legend will get $50,000 toward his designated charity, while the competitors will be going for 2014 PGA TOUR and LPGA Tour tournament exemptions, cash and other prizes. Bulger was playing for the Marine Corps Scholarship foundation.

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

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