Subtraction by addition
West Virginia and TCU joined the Big 12 Conference as trendy picks to contend for conference championships.
Less than two years later, both teams own losing records and have no hope of reaching the postseason.
It’s a harsh reality for both programs. The Horned Frogs, who used to dominate in smaller conferences, will miss a bowl game for the first time in eight seasons. The Mountaineers, who used to be kings of the Big East, haven’t missed a bowl game since 2001.
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Neither program expected this kind of dropoff in a new league. That much is certain based on the way West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen handled a loss to Kansas on Saturday.
“This program is not equipped to handle the wear and tear of the Big 12,” Holgorsen said.
It’s a fair statement – the Big 12 is a significant step up from the Big East – but the timing is bizarre. Kansas had lost 27 straight conference games before thumping West Virginia over the weekend. The result of that game had more to due with James Sims running wild and KU coach Charlie Weis developing a good strategy that included starting Montell Cozart at quarterback than wear and tear.
West Virginia was good enough to beat Oklahoma State and it was good enough to take Texas to overtime. But it slipped up in games against Maryland – a shutout loss – and Texas Tech. Then it fell flat against the Jayhawks.
Combined with a feeble ending to 2012, and the Mountaineers haven’t had much to cheer about in the Big 12.
TCU has suffered similar struggles, but it can blame injuries and a difficult nonconference schedule for its faults. Had quarterback Casey Pachall been healthy all season and had their defense stayed a bit healthier, the Horned Frogs would have more than four victories. Opening against LSU didn’t help, either.
Even so, they fell one play shy of winning at Kansas State on Saturday.
TCU coach Gary Patterson expects his program to bounce back, and it likely will. It’s hard to envision West Virginia staying down for long, too.
But their struggles are a bad look for the Big 12. The teams they replaced – Texas A&M and Missouri – are excelling in the SEC.
“We knew it was going to be challenging,” Holgorsen said. “The Big 12 obviously has some of the best football that’s going to be played across the country. There are top teams with facilities, with recruiting and players – all of that stuff needs to improve on our end.”
A year after sending a record nine teams to bowl games, the Big 12 will be unable to fulfill its seven bowl tie-ins this season.
Six teams are eligible. Four teams have no shot at the postseason.
That means the Pinstripe Bowl, which is seventh in the Big 12’s bowl pecking order, will have to look elsewhere.
Unlikely must-see game
Ten years ago, Baylor was a hapless football program and Oklahoma State rarely made back-to-back bowl games.
On Saturday, the Bears and the Cowboys will meet in the Big 12’s potential game of the year. ESPN is sending “College GameDay” to Stillwater, Okla., to preview the matchup.
Baylor is undefeated. Oklahoma State’s only loss came at West Virginia. Both teams control their destiny in the conference championship race. Whoever wins will have the upper hand down the stretch. Both teams run a spread offense. Their rises up the hierarchy of college football shows just how much parity there is today.
Both teams seem to be embracing the moment.
“We have ‘Gameday’ coming in here,” Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. “I don’t think anyone can put a dollar amount on the value of marketing and commercial exposure we get from that.”
Things were supposed to be different under Kliff Kingsbury. Maybe they still will be. But, so far, Texas Tech is resembling the same path it often took under Tommy Tuberville.
Start fast. Qualify for a bowl game. Lose in November.
The Red Raiders started 7-0 and have lost four in a row. They need to win at Texas on Thanksgiving to avoid a five-game losing streak. To his credit, Kingsbury expects his team to bounce back.
“It’s not like we are 2-10,” Kingsbury said. “They understand the opportunity they have in front of us. They have a lot to play for. It’s a spirited group.”
James Sims: The Kansas running back was dominant against West Virginia, rushing for 221 yards and three touchdowns.
Clint Chelf: Came close to 300 total yards, and scored four touchdowns against Texas.
Bryce Petty: If Baylor stays undefeated, he will be a Heisman Trophy finalist.
Jack Cantele: Kicked four field goals, including a game-winner, against TCU. He deservedly won Big 12 special teams player of the week.
Perry Ellis: KU’s sophomore forward from Wichita shared Big 12 basketball player of the week with Iowa State’s Melvin Ejim. Ellis had a career-best 24 points against Duke. Teammate Andrew Wiggins was basketball newcomer of the week.
Texas Tech in November: The Red Raiders always seem to peak in October and fade in November. You can set your clock to it.
Dana Holgorsen: He will likely be back next season, but if he doesn’t win he won’t be retained.
Ty Zimmerman: The senior K-State safety suffered a potential season-ending injury against TCU. Tough break for an established playmaker.
Iowa State defense: The Cyclones led 10-3 late in the second half and ended up losing 48-10.
Ranking this week’s games
Don’t miss it: Baylor at Oklahoma State, Oklahoma at Kansas State.
Find something else to do: Kansas at Iowa State.
Big 12 football rankings
1. Baylor (9-0, 6-0): The Bears are still fighting for national respect, but they are the class of the Big 12.
3. Oklahoma State (9-1, 6-1): Cowboys control their own destiny, and ESPN’s in town this week. Exciting times in Stillwater.
2. Texas (7-3, 6-1): Longhorns had a good run, but their conference championship hopes now seem unreachable.
4. Oklahoma (8-2, 5-2): One word describes Oklahoma’s win over Iowa State: ugly.
5. Kansas State (6-4, 4-3): Wildcats are red hot. Can they stay that way with Ty Zimmerman on crutches?
6. Texas Tech (7-4, 4-4): Red Raiders headed toward another November collapse.
7. Kansas (3-7, 1-6): The Jayhawks looked good thumping West Virginia. With Iowa State up next, a winning streak is within reach.
8. TCU (4-7, 2-6): Horned Frogs might be the nation’s best team with a losing record.
9. West Virginia (4-7, 2-6): Holgorsen is officially on the hot seat.
10. Iowa State (1-9, 0-7): Paul Rhoads is safe for now. But pressure will mount if he doesn’t get back to winning next year.