The Mountaineers will be have to travel further to venues they’ve never played in, not to mention, they’ll face a tougher week-in-and-week out schedule than the one they played in the Big East to name a few.
On the flip-side, they also happen to return a team loaded with talent that includes one of the best quarterbacks in the country. That in itself means they should be one of the better teams in the country regardless of what conference they call home.
Count former Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer among those who think the Mountaineers will make a name for themselves in a hurry in the Big 12. Switzer in fact, thinks West Virginia is the favorite to win the league in 2012.
“I think they’re preseason favorites and I’m serious about that,” Switzer told MetroNews while caravanning through West Virginia with other Mountaineer coaches. “I think Oklahoma and (West Virginia) would be preseason favorites. I think Texas is third and I don’t see anyone else in the picture.
Is that Bill Snyder I hear laughing?
All jokes aside, he might not be far off.
One huge advantage West Virginia has on its side is the fact that head coach, Dana Holgorsen, spent nine years coaching in the Big 12 before coming to Morgantown – as did several members of his staff – which is an advantage that can’t be overlooked.
He already knows what to expect from most of the teams the Mountaineers will face in the Big 12 which will help speed up the learning curve immensely that any team faces when switching leagues.
How much of that knowledge he can transfer to his football team isn’t yet known, but he’ll have a huge head start over other coaches that have been faced with similar scenarios.
“I think they have the talent, ability and coaching to be a contender right off the bat. I don’t think there’s any waiting. You’re not going to have to wait and build,” Switzer added. “They will be a team that can play with anybody we have in our league and can play with the best we have in our league.”
Yes, they will coach.
But there will also be less margin for error in 2012. They open the Big 12 schedule with Baylor and then have to travel to the state of Texas in back-to-back weeks to face Texas and Texas Tech before hosting Kansas State, who despite what Switzer says, should also be considered among the league favorites.
After a bye week, they’ll enter another tough stretch hosting TCU, traveling to Stillwater the following week to face the defending Big 12 champs Oklahoma State all before hosting Bob Stoops and Oklahoma in Morgantown.
Not an easy road, at all, and if they come out of those seven games with one or fewer losses, they’ll without a doubt be in the Big 12 title conversation.
The lasting memory from the Mountaineers in 2011 was their impressive 70-33 victory over Clemson in the Orange Bowl. But that’s one game, and they’ll be facing that caliber of competition on most Saturday’s in 2012. The fact remains they also lost to Syracuse and Louisville during the regular season in ’11 and ended the year by beating Cincinnati, Pitt, and South Florida by a combined seven points.
No one here is knocking the Big East, but it goes without saying, the road in the Big 12 is going to be filled with a few more speed bumps along the way.
Like Switzer said, however, they’ll be a team that can play with anybody right off the bat. And if they can stay healthy and have a few balls bounce there way, they might not have to wait long for their first Big 12 title.
Of course, I’m sure there are a few schools in Texas, Kansas, and Oklahoma that might not agree, just yet.