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WVU coach Neal Brown says the Big 12 race is wide open this year.

No answers to the Big 12 riddle

by Bob Hertzel

MORGANTOWN — It’s been a whirlwind, of course, as West Virginia and the Big 12 Conference raced halfway through its 2022 season.

So much has happened in this first half, but nothing has happened, at least to determine what this conference is this year…and certainly not in the future.

West Virginia football coach Neal Brown, who saw his Mountaineers take a giant leap forward with a surprise 43-40 victory over Baylor last Thursday night, briefly addressed the Big 12 situation after that game.

“This league is going to be wide open” he said. “There are a lot of very good teams. This team (Baylor) won a Big 12 championship last year, and they have a bunch of guys coming back. They treated us pretty well last year and our guys came back.

Indeed, mountaineers have done it. It was hardly an artistic performance, but I don’t know many guys named Picasso, Dali or Grandma Moses who have ever played football.

This is not a game for dry pastels. At its best, it’s a test of physical strength and endurance and played with fury but determination.

It seems to be like that all over the league.

As we approach this subject, it is a week too early to proclaim anyone “the best of the Big 12” however, this coming Saturday could be the most crucial day of the season.

In one of those “Who would believe it?” games, the conference lead will be decided when the two undefeated (in conference) teams face off…and no, it’s not Oklahoma and Texas like you might have predicted at the start of the season.

It’s TCU, which last year didn’t qualify for a bowling game and lost longtime patriarch Gary Patterson to Kansas State, a team that finished last season with a 4-game record. -5.

It’s a 7 p.m. game.

Earlier in the day, at 2:30 p.m., the two teams right behind them and the only two teams with a single loss – Texas and Oklahoma State – face off in Stillwater.

By Sunday morning, the Big 12 could be looking at an undisputed leader in the TCU-K-State matchup winner and a pair of one-loss challengers biting their tails in the loser of this matchup and the winner of Texas and Texas. ‘Oklahoma State. .

All of this may be the precursor to what the world of college football – at least in the Big 12, but probably much more widespread than that – will look like in the future as power changes depending on who best manages the portal. transfer and who can do the best NIL sales job.

Losers become winners; winners become losers.

Look no further than the SEC for that, if you must, because Tennessee hasn’t stopped celebrating its win over Alabama yet.

And, in case you haven’t already sensed what’s going on, Oklahoma is no longer the power that dominated the conference. The Sooners, who lost their coach and quarterback to USC, have just one conference win with three losses and were all set to beat Kansas this year.

Parity can sometimes produce boredom, a league full of .500 teams isn’t really the goal, but parity in the Big 12 has produced edge-of-your-seat football all along.

There have been four games played in the Big 12:

WVU 43, Baylor 40

TCU 43, Oklahoma State 40

Texas 24, Iowa State 21

Oklahoma 52, Kansas 42

It’s three 3-point games and a 10-point decision.

Thrilling plays, thrilling performances, game-winning field goals, wins from behind. In WVU play alone, there was a fumble return for a touchdown, a blocked extra point returned for a 2-point conversion, a Casey Legg field goal to win the game.

TCU had to go to double overtime for their win over Oklahoma State with “MadMax” Duggan leads the way at quarterback.

Texas won as quarterback Quinn Ewers, who missed the win over WVU the week before, three TD assists, including the game-winner to Xavier Worthy, who WVU fans wished they had missed their game as well.

Amidst all of this, the conference is reshaping its future with the departure of Oklahoma and Texas…maybe not until next season, but heading to the SEC as the Big 12 add Cincinnati, Houston , Central Florida and BYU join the conference.

That will make it a 14-team conference with Oklahoma and Texas still in, then 12 teams, if there’s no more expansion, and the conference moves toward maintaining a single division and a championship game between his best two. teams.

“With Divisions you know who you’re going to face each year, but outside of Divisions it changes who you play,” said sporting director Shane Lyons, fresh from Big 12 meetings, during Thursday’s pre-game broadcast. “For the league game, everyone is moving away from divisions.

“We were the only conference without divisions and played the top two teams in the league,” Lyons continued. “It worked really well for us with 10 members. If you go to the divisions you might have a top ranked team in one division and in the other division a team that is not even ranked.

“You could go to the championship game and have a surprise and knock both of your teams out of the playoffs.”

Expect a decision on this soon.

As for West Virginia, figuring out when Neal Brown has it is as difficult as understanding the conference as a whole.

He is adamant that he has a good team, claiming to have won three of his last four games after losing the first two in games that have, in effect, come down to just one game, both against rival opponents at Pitt and Virginia Tech on their grounds.

Although the win over Baylor was inconclusive, who really has to say at this point with a road game at Texas Tech ahead and still looking for games against Kansas State, TCU, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma in the second half of the season.

So hang in there, the season may not really be half over.

It may just be getting started.

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