AND SO it begins.The real test, that is, for West Virginia's football program.WVU will visit Texas Saturday night in one of the nation's premier games. The No. 8 Mountaineers versus the No. 11 Longhorns.Great stuff. Should be fun to watch. But label the game a quiz. The final grade will surface after WVU hits the road and completes the season against what's unquestionably the Mountaineers' toughest schedule ever.
Believe not? Check the latest Sagarin computer rankings. The Big 12 is ranked No. 1, ahead of the Southeastern Conference, ahead of the Pac-12 and ahead of the Big Ten.It's easy to understand why. Nine of the 10 Big 12 teams are either ranked or received Top 25 votes in either the Associated Press or USA Today coaches poll. Within those Sagarin computer rankings, eight of the 10 teams are ranked among the top 23 teams.Interestingly, Texas is ranked No. 2 to Alabama by the computer and WVU No. 19. But look down the road for the Mountaineers. After Texas, West Virginia plays at Texas Tech. The Red Raiders aren't ranked in the Associated Press poll, but are No. 24 in the coaches poll and received 39 votes in the AP poll - including one from me for the 25th spot. In that computer ranking, Tech is ranked No. 11, or eight spots above WVU.Of course, Kansas State and West Virginia are a voter's choice, falling at No. 7 or 8 in the polls. TCU is ranked No. 15 in the AP and 13 in the coaches polls. Oklahoma State, which apparently was robbed in its loss to Texas, received a few votes from coaches. Oklahoma is No. 17 in the AP and No. 14 in the coaches polls. Even Iowa State received a few votes by the writers. The only Big 12 school not to receive a vote was Kansas.Remind Mountaineer fans of anything?Yep, the Big East basketball schedules. If anyone at WVU understands what it's like to routinely send teams against ranked opponents, it's hoops coach Bob Huggins. He did that within the Big East. He'll do it again in the Big 12."It's hard," Huggins said. "I mean, it's different because they have a week to prepare and we might have from Saturday to Monday.
"But the hardest thing to do is try to get your players to play at the highest level and not have a bad day. You saw what happened last year to Oklahoma State [in football]. It had a sub-par game against Iowa State and there was no national championship game."Indeed, OSU was No. 2 and the upstart Cyclones upset the Cowboys 37-31 in the last regular-season game. Oklahoma State went into Ames with a BCS title game ticket in hand and walked out with it in shreds."You have to play on an even keel," Huggins said. "You can't have sub-par games. We struggled with that a bunch last year."Huggins is obviously handling it well. His Mountaineer teams have reached the NCAA tournament five straight seasons. And it is different, perhaps more difficult, in basketball with multiple games per week.
But Huggins knows the overall challenge."You're not going to be as sharp one day as another," he said. "It's inevitable."
We'll see how well football coach Dana Holgorsen and company handle the road challenge beginning Saturday.nn
While the college football season is in full bloom, Huggins' basketball team will quietly begin practice Oct. 13.It should prove to be another successful season for Huggins. He returns Jabari Hinds, Deniz Kilicli and will now have the services of transfers Aaric Murray (La Salle), Juwan Staten (Dayton) and Matt Humphrey (Boston College).According to Huggins, however, a couple of those have been hampered by injury.
"Staten had minor knee surgery and is out for a while," said the coach. "Humphrey had shoulder surgery a while back."Huggins said he wasn't sure when Staten would be ready to go. When pressed on whether that could be for the start of practice, the coach said, "probably not."nn
And finally . . .WVU announced on Thursday that the Statler Club Lounge area in the Coliseum will include beer sales at the men's basketball games this season. There won't, however, be beer sales in the general concession/seating area of the Coliseum.My guess is the folks at the school forgot to finish the release. The one that should say there won't be beer sales in the general concession/seating area until next year, after the general patrons in the Coliseum see those in the Statler Lounge enjoying a cold one and demand their own.It's just step one, folks. Step two cannot be far behind.Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.