College football is rapidly approaching and a lot of things have happened since Alabama beat LSU in the National Title game in January. Most of the headlines have been dominated by the horrific-ness that happened — and was allowed to happen — at Penn State. The way the powers that be have spoken, it seems Penn State is on a path to be kicked off the earth entirely. (I wouldn’t mind that and neither would most anyone else.)
However, other things happened as well. Less terrible and life-altering things, like: Texas A&M and Missouri moved to the SEC, where they will get chant “SEC! SEC! SEC!” with their new conference-mates as they get their heads kicked in.
(I wonder if that chant will be as fun when LSU is up 47-9 at the start of the fourth quarter? I guess we will see.)
Oh, and A&M and Missouri, you guys are rivals now. Yay! You will play each other Thanksgiving weekend. Nothing says classic, old school rivalry like… Texas A&M vs. Missouri.
Moving on, as these two depart the Big 12, two new teams arrive: TCU and West Virginia. Today we focus on one of those teams, West Virginia, in the first of a two-part segment called Get to know Your Opponent.
The West Virginia Mountaineers
Town: Morgantown, West Virginia
Colors: Old Gold and Blue
Nickname: The Mountaineers
Mascot: The Mountaineer
Main Rival: Pittsburgh
Most Awesome Alumni: Don Knotts
This breakdown is, of course, all athletically based. I’ll leave the analysis of academics to other people, the ones I commonly refer to as “smart” and address as “sir” and “ma’am.” What I can say about West Virginia’s academics is that they have them, and the kids on the teams have to go class and stuff — just like everyone else. I guess, I overstepped there. Maybe they don’t go to class? No idea.
Here’s what I know about West Virginia University: Kenton Paulino beat them with this shot in the Sweet 16 in 2006. Kevin Pittsnogle not only has a terrific name, he had a wicked sweet wedding with photos to prove it.
They like to burn couches in Morgantown. They burn them to celebrate wins, to mourn losses and in May of 2011, the fire department had to deal with 26 dumpster/couch fires simultaneously as it was announced Osama Bin Laden had been killed. It’s such a big deal there that some on campus want the school to sponsor a couch-burning event. Yes, all those words are correct: a school sponsored couch-burning event.
The annual game with Pittsburgh (about 75 miles away) is called the Backyard Brawl, and they really dislike each other which is terrific. They sing John Denver’s “Country Roads” a lot, at least in Las Vegas when their basketball team is playing in the Dance. Matthew McConaughey got game film from Bobby Bowden and West Virginia in We Are Marshall. They had a linebacker named Puppy back in the day and had the first kid named Major I’d ever heard of (quarterback Major Harris). There is the terrifying fullback Owen Schmitt who will hit himself until he bleeds, and sometimes they wear these awesome gold shoes.
The most important thing to remember about West Virginia is that they are the team that beat the tar out of the oklahoma sooners in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl. The win was so big that the school gave interim coach Bill Stewart (filling in for the dastardly Rich Rodriguez) the full-time job right after the game. He sort of lost his mind later on, but this piece focuses on the good things (and at WVU, couch-burning is considered a good thing) and not the bad. There is plenty of time for hate, resentment and ill will later as we play on the field. Right now, let’s just get acquainted.
The Mountaineer and his football team are pretty damned good. They return 15 starters (8 offense, 7 defense) and the offensive mind of head coach
1990’s era Dwight Yoakum Dana Holgersen. Fresh off a Big East Title and program-crushing 70-33 win over Clemson in the Orange Bowl, WVU enters the Big 12 as a favorite to win the league.
The trigger for the high octane offense is quarterback Geno Smith. The 6-foot-3, 214-pound senior threw for 4,385 yards with 31 touchdowns and seven interceptions last year and was 1st-Team All Big East and the Orange Bowl MVP.
With Smith return his top two receivers: senior Tavon Austin and junior Stedman Bailey, who both had over 1,000 yards receiving last year (1,186 and 1,279 respectively) and combined for 20 touchdown receptions. The third receiver, Ivan McCartney, had enough production (49 catches, 595 yards, three td’s) to be the No.1 guy on several bowl teams.
With four (technically three, but a starter from 2010 returns after missing ’11 with an injury) starters returning on the offensive line, the only question mark is running back. But with Smith and his receivers coming back, they might not need much of a running game.
On defense, West Virginia runs the always-difficult-to-handle 3-4 to highlight their talent linebacker quartet and solid secondary, but their defensive line lost almost all of their sacks to graduation. The Mountaineer special teams are as “meh” as “meh” can get with a kicker that hit 16-22 field goals with two blocked and a punt team that averaged 38 yards per kick.
Tavon Austin can make plays returning kicks, but they don’t make many plays covering kicks, allowing three kickoff/punt returns for touchdowns.
It looks like you fit the stereotype of the Big 12 pretty well, Mountaineers: high wire offense with a big name quarterback and possible trouble defending the other high wire offenses with big name quarterbacks. This should be fun.
A couple of notes for you, West Virginia:
- Make the trip to Oklahoma State. Stillwater is a fun town, everyone is nice and the stadium will be full. Hit Eskimo Joe’s. The food is okay, but they really like visitors and the gift shop likes your money. A good time, win or lose.
- I can’t say the same for the trip to Tech. The kids, they are a little mean… Wait, I forgot who I was talking to. You burn couches. You’ll be fine. If you get hit with a tortilla, don’t dwell on the “why.” They have been throwing them for years, and no one really knows the reason.
- Everybody you meet when the oklahoma sooners come to town will be from Dallas. Either they grew up in Dallas and stayed in Oklahoma after leaving for school, moved to Dallas after graduation or went back after school was over. Every. Single. One. If they tell you otherwise, it’s a lie. I’m your friend, so trust me. And they will insult you behind your back and hit on your spouse. FACT.
- Be nice to the Kansas fans that come to Morgantown. It’s only going to be the parents of the team, so they sort of have to go.
- We have this stuff called Mexican food in Austin. You will never be the same after you try it.
We are excited to have you (except oklahoma, they were saying some things about you earlier) and can’t wait to get this started. See you in Austin in October!
Next time we will break down TCU, or as I call them: The kids from Tyler.