Tag:West Virginia
Posted on: October 30, 2011 11:23 pm
Edited on: October 30, 2011 11:24 pm

The Big 12 may not be done expanding

Posted by Tom Fornelli

The wheel of conference realignment never stops spinning, it only hits bumps in the road and crushes conferences beneath it occasionally.

When the Big 12 announed last week that West Virginia would be joining the conference as Missouri's replacement -- should Missouri leave, which is expected but just hasn't happened yet -- interim commissioner Chuck Neinas said that the conference was done expanding for now. He also said that the Big 12 was fine with 10 schools.

Well for now may not have lasted very long. According to Berry Tramel in The Oklahoman, the team that lost out to West Virginia to become the newest member of the Big 12 may still be in the running. Tramel says that the Big 12 may invite Louisville to join the conference soon and expand the league to 11 teams, much like the Big 10 did for years before adding Nebraska this season.

Tramel also says that the Big 12 might consider playing a 10-game round robin conference schedule if it expands to 11 schools in hopes of increasing television money by having more premiere games.

Of course, I'm of the opinion that if Louisville did eventually work its way to the Big 12, the conference wouldn't stop at 11, and would look to add another school. Much like the Big 12 would consider a 10-game conference schedule to increase revenue, it'd probably start thinking about the revenue it could get by rekindling the Big 12 title game as well.

Who that next team would be, I'm not sure. BYU could still come into play, even though the Big 12 seemed to pass on the Cougars already. In his report Tramel mentioned both Notre Dame and Cincinnati as possibilities, but I see no circumstance in which Notre Dame joins the Big 12 in football. Cincinnati might work because its current conference is in the process of falling apart, and it would provide the Big 12 with a nice market in Ohio, which could have some recruiting benefits as well.
Posted on: October 30, 2011 4:21 pm

Big East poll reactions, Week 9

Posted by Chip Patterson

This week's polls have been released. Here's how the Big East fared, from the top of the polls to the bottom, and what it means.


23/22. Cincinnati

Even though the Bearcats did not take the field this weekend, it was another week as the Big East's only unbeaten team in conference play. In order to hold their spot in the standings and rankings, Cincinnati must defeat Pittsburgh on the road and West Virginia at home in the next two weeks.  Second-year head coach Butch Jones already has erased the memory of last year's 4-8 showing, but the 6-1 start has the Cincinnati fan base thinking Big East title. Those dreams will either be reinforced or washed away in the next few weeks, as the Bearcats face arguably the toughest portion of the conference schedule.

24/21. West Virginia

West Virginia entered a difficult situation against Rutgers on Saturday. With the windy, snow-filled conditions, and Eric LeGrand leading the Scarlet Knights on the field it did not seem like the pass-happy Mountaineers had much going for them. But after trailing 31-21 at halftime the Mountaineers defense turned up the pressure on freshman quarterback Gary Nova, shutting out the Scarlet Knights in the second half on the way to a 41-31 win.

Shawne Alston and Dustin Garrison led a suddenly relevant ground attack for the Mountaineers, while Geno Smith used quick passes to Tavon Austin and Brad Starks to move the ball in the unfriendly weather. It was one of the strongest displays of resiliency by Dana Holgorsen's squad since their brief comeback in the LSU game, a great sign after the uninspiring performance against Syracuse.

Others receiving votesNone.  Syracuse was in this position last week, but after their flat performance against Louisville there were no votes givien to Doug Marrone's Orange from either poll.

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Posted on: October 30, 2011 4:03 am

Big East Winners and Losers: Week 9

Posted by Chip Patterson

A handy recap of who really won and who really lost that you won't find in the box score.

WINNER: West Virginia's BCS title hopes

Trailing by 10 at halftime on the road against Rutgers in swirling snow, West Virginia faced the possibility of dropping their second straight conference game. It could have been a repeat of 2010, when back-to-back conference losses caused West Virginia to lose a three-team tie for the conference title. The Mountaineers were denied a trip to a BCS bowl and instead found themselves playing in the Champs Sports Bowl in December.

But the Mountaineers' defense got opportunistic in the second half, and Shawne Alston led a ground attack that seemed to catch the Scarlet Knights off guard. The 20-0 shut out in the final two quarters helped seal the 41-31 victory and keep West Virginia alive in the hunt for the Big East title. Cincinnati is still undefeated, but West Virginia will have an opportunity to claim the tiebreaker over the Bearcats in another road test in two weeks. They'll likely need to win out in order to win the conference, but at least they still control their destiny.

LOSER: Gary Nova

When freshman quarterback Gary Nova replaced Chas Dodd as the starting quarterback at Rutgers, he received praise for his maturity despite being a true freshman. But on Saturday Nova showed his age playing against a tough opponent in hostile conditions. As the snowy mix fell from the sky during Rutgers' 41-31 loss to West Virginia, Nova began to lose his control of the ball as the game progressed. Two fumbles under center halted Scarlet Knights' drives during a frustrating second half for Rutgers. With a 10-point halftime lead, it looked as though the Scarlet Knights were poised to pull the upset in the strange playing conditions. But the inability to sustain a drive led to a disappointing finish, as Rutgers was held scoreless through the entire second half.

WINNER: Louisville's offense

It's hard to tell if Louisville's offensive growth is a credit to the changes on the coaching staff or Teddy Bridgewater's development, but either way things are moving in the right direction for the Cardinals. Louisville put up 343 total yards of offense and a season-high 27 points in the victory over Syracuse on Saturday. Teddy Bridgwater was sharp in the pocket, completing 17 of 24 passes for 198 yards, two touchdowns and - most importantly - no interceptions.

It was a huge win for Charlie Strong's squad, which despite their early season struggles currently sit just one game out of first place in the Big East. All of the sudden, Louisville is looking at the possibilities of another postseason berth under the second-year coach. The improvements to the offense have helped the team settle on their identity, and Saturday was a moment of arrival for the Cardinals.

LOSER: Connecticut's quarterbacks

While Connecticut's quarterback rotation has narrowed to Johnny McEntee as the starter and Scott McCummings as your change-of-pace running threat, the strength of the position has not improved all season. Johnny McEntee looked like a walk-on against Pittsburgh on Wednesday night, completing just 17 of 33 passes for 193 yards. He threw no interceptions, though probably should have been picked off 3-4 times by packaging misread passes right into the hands of the Panthers' defense. McEntee looks nervous under pressure, and does not avoid sacks well at all.

Unfortunately for first-year head coach Paul Pasqualoni, there just aren't many options offensively other than to tough it out with what he has. Freshman running back Lyle McCombs has been promising, and notched another 100-yard performance (his fifth of the season) with the 124 yard output against Pittsburgh. It is a frustrating moment to realize that "this is the best you are going to do," but that's exactly what Connecticut fans have with their offense right now.

WINNER: Cincinnati 

Even though the Bearcats were off, Butch Jones and Co. were winners in Week 9. As the rest of the league spent the weekend beating each other up and shuffling the conference standings, the Bearcats remain at their position on top. Undefeated in league play, the Bearcats still control their destiny in terms of the Big East title and a BCS bowl bid. Arguably two of the toughest challenges on the schedule await Cincinnati in the next two weeks with a road trip to Pittsburgh and a home game against West Virginia. Getting the extra week to rest and prepare, while Rutgers and Syracuse (both road games in late November) fell an extra game behind in the standings made Week 9 enjoyable for Cincinnati fans with Big East title hopes.

LOSER: Syracuse's momentum 

Syracuse is one of the least-consistent 5-3 teams in the nation right now. The Orange failed to reach bowl eligibility on Saturday with their 27-10 loss at the hands of Louisville. They looked uninspired, lifeless, and completely different from the squad that knocked off West Virginia 49-23 last weekend. Of course, THAT team looked different than the one that squeaked out a 37-34 win over Tulane. There is no continuity or consistency to the play of Syracuse this season, something that makes them wildly unpredictable and still dangerous in Big East play.

With four conference games left, it would take a meltdown for Doug Marrone not to take Syracuse back to the postseason. Unfortunately picking up their second conference loss likely plays them out of the Big East title race. All of the momentum Syracuse had after the big West Virginia win is gone, and now the Orange will try to get it back next week against Connecticut on the road.

WINNER: Eric LeGrand

We've covered this moment extensively today, but I figured it was worth one last post. The inspiring video of Eric LeGrand re-joining his teammates on the field before Rutgers-West Virginia.

LOSER: Ray Graham

Pittsburgh's offense took a hit on Wednesday night, with star running back Ray Graham suffering a knee injury that will require season-ending surgery. In a roller-coaster season for Pittsburgh's offense, Graham has been the only steady component. The junior running back entered the weekend as the nation's second-leading rusher, averaging 135 yards per game. Graham is the perfect back for head coach Todd Graham's offensive scheme, providing a dangerous receiving threat out of the backfield as well. Heading into the Panthers' 35-20 win over Connecticut, Graham accounted for nearly 40% of the Pittsburgh's offensive yards. The one bit of good news was how the rest of the offense responded to the injury. Quarterback Tino Sunseri played his best game of the season, throwing for 419 yards and leading the Panthers in rushing with 40 yards and a touchdown. Pittsburgh (4-4) will need more of that from Sunseri if they plan to be playing football in late December.

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Posted on: October 29, 2011 7:42 pm
Edited on: October 29, 2011 7:44 pm

QUICK HITS: No. 25 West Virginia 41, Rutgers 31

Posted by Chip Patterson

WEST VIRGINIA WON. The Mountaineers outscored Rutgers 20-0 in the second half to climb out of a hole in snowy Piscataway and win 41-31. With wind and weather playing a factor in the game, West Virginia leaned on their rushing game to avoid dropping their second straight conference game. The defense tightened up at halftime and forced four Rutgers turnovers, shutting down every attempt at a comeback.

HOW WEST VIRGINIA WON: The Mountaineers entered the game ranked 100th nationally in rushing, but with the wind and snow hampering the air attack West Virginia needed production on the ground. The offense ran the ball 37 times against Rutgers, their second highest total of the season. Shawne Alston and Dustin Garrison led the ground attack, which produced four of the Mountaineers' six touchdowns. Short passes to Tavon Austin added to the ground attack, allowing the talented wide receiver to make plays in space on the snowy surface.

WHEN WEST VIRGINIA WON: The entire second half belonged to the Mountaineers, but Geno Smith's touchdown run to give them the lead in the fourth quarter was a pivotal moment in the victory. It was a 4th and Goal playcall with West Virginia trailing by three, and Dana Holgorsen knew he had the Rutgers defense on their heels. The touchdown capped off an 11 play, 89 yard drive that ate up almost five minutes of game clock. It was a dominant series for the Mountaineers' offense and set the tone for the rest of the game.

WHAT WEST VIRGINIA WON: The Mountaineers avoided their second conference loss in the comeback victory, and remains in the hunt for the Big East title. Two losses in league play will generally make it difficult to finish on top of the standings in the eight team round-robin Big East schedule. Losing two of their first three conference contests would have made making a BCS bowl game extremely difficult. It was also a great test of the Mountaineers' resiliency, which was called into question in the loss to Syracuse.

WHAT RUTGERS LOST: The Scarlet Knights desperately needed a strong showing on Saturday on the heels of the 16-14 loss to Louisville. Leading 31-21 at halftime, it looked like Greg Schiano's squad had the gameplan ready to knock off the Mountaineers. The second half turnovers and inability to sustain a drive gave Geno Smith and the West Virginia offense too many opportunities to take, then extend, the lead.

THAT WAS CRAZY: Not crazy, but certainly special. Eric LeGrand leading the Scarlet Knights onto the field before the game.

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Posted on: October 29, 2011 5:21 pm
Edited on: October 29, 2011 5:26 pm

VIDEO: Eric LeGrand leads Rutgers onto the field

Posted by Chip Patterson

The snow-covered fans who braved the weather to attend Saturday's Big East showdown between Rutgers and West Virginia are already being rewarded with fireworks. The Scarlet Knights finished the first quarter leading 17-14, in a game that already has outscored last week's loss to Louisville.  You can follow the rest of the action HERE.

But the real treat for Rutgers fans was seeing the team led onto the field by Eric LeGrand. The former defensive tackle wore his No. 52 jersey as he directed his motorized chair out of the tunnel and towards midfield. It was LeGrand's first time back on a game field since suffering the neck injury last October that left him paralyzed from the neck down. LeGrand will join the ABC crew in the announcer's booth for the second half, he has recently been working as an analyst for the Rutgers radio network.

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Posted on: October 28, 2011 5:46 pm
Edited on: October 28, 2011 6:44 pm

West Virginia expects July 2012 arrival in Big 12

Posted by Chip Patterson

West Virginia president James Clements made it very clear the way he felt when issuing his opening statements on the Big 12 Update teleconference.

"It's a great day to be a Mountaineer, and a great day to be a member of the Big 12 conference," Clements boasted to the media on the line. After a week filed with back and fort reports regarding their conference affiliation, West Virginia finally had a home.

When, exactly, the Mountaineers join the Big 12 is still unknown. Big East bylaws require a 27 month withdrawal period after the official notification from the departing school. Athletic director Oliver Luck confirmed he officially informed Big East commissioner John Marinatto of West Virginia's intentions on Friday morning.

Both Luck and Clements repeatedly used the target date "July 1, 2012" as the school's expected arrival in the Big 12. When multiple questions were posed to West Virginia's leadership on how they planned to leave before the completion 27-month period - the response was predictably vague.

"Our team and their team were in discussion today, tying to make that happen," Luck said of the negotiations with the Big East office.

As required in the bylaws, West Virginia has already paid $2.5 million - half of the $5 million exit fee - to the league offices along with their official notification of withdrawal. Luck and Clements were both confident in their ability to join the Big 12 in time for the 2012-2013 season, though there was no elaboration on the negotiations with the Big East.

West Virginia to the Big 12
Another important development from Friday's teleconference was the Big 12's announcement that the reported grant-in-rights was close to being approved by the member schools. The agreement, which was confirmed as a 6-year deal, is currently "being circulated" among the member schools with the expectation it will be approved in a Tuesday meeting.

The Big 12 announced that this would likely be a stopping point, for now, for expansion. Ten teams allows for a round-robin conference schedule, and "a true champion" to be crowned in the regular season. Missouri has not officially left the Big 12 as of Friday's call, but it was clear they did not expect the Tigers to be a conference member for much longer.

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Posted on: October 28, 2011 4:05 pm
Edited on: October 30, 2011 2:51 pm

LSU-Alabama Daily, Oct. 28: Secondary breakdown

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Counting down to LSU-Alabama with a daily dose of analysis and news.

DAYS REMAINING TO KICKOFF: 8, or the number of wins for LSU in the series in the past 11 meetings. Before that uptick the Bayou Bengals trailed the Tide 42-16-5 in the all-time series and had never defeated Alabama three consecutive times. The man most responsible for the change in fortunes? Nick Saban, who went 4-1 against the Tide in his five-year stint at the LSU helm between 2000 and 2004, ending a run of 9 Alabama victories in 11 years. Saban hasn't had quite as much success turning the tables -- yet -- in Tuscaloosa, going 2-2 against LSU in his four years at Alabama.

QUESTION OF THE DAY: Who has the better secondary? Or maybe more importantly: which team matches up better against the opponents' receivers?

Amongst the many superlatives that will be thrown around regarding this game, here's one that's entirely deserved: these are the best two secondaries in college football. 

And with all due respect to, say, Michigan State or Virginia Tech, we're not sure it's close. Between Alabama's fivesome of safeties Mark Barron and Robert Lester and corners Dre Kirkpatrick, Demarcus Milliner and Dequan Menzie, and LSU's of safeties Eric Reid and Brandon Taylor (or Craig Loston) and corners Tyrann Mathieu, Morris Claiborne and Tharold Simon, it's possible the teams will combine for 8 or 9 future NFL defensive backs. (Hell: maybe 10)

So who's better? The stats give Alabama a slight edge, with the Tide having allowed an opposing QB rating of 83.68 to LSU's 96.49, just 4.5 yards per-pass attempt to LSU's 5.4, and a completion percentage of 48.1 to LSU's 53.1. (All of these numbers for both teams rank among the best in the nation, of course.) Alabama has also reached "total shutdown" phase more often, holding five of their opponents to a QB rating of 90 or worse while LSU has unlocked that achievement just three times.

In LSU's favor, though, is that 1. they've played the tougher schedule, thanks to facing teams like Oregon and West Virginia 2. they're more likely to come up with the big play, with 11 interceptions to Alabama's 9 and Mathieu among the national leaders in forced fumbles 3. as could be particularly important in a matchup of such fierce ground games, they're more involved in stuffing the run, with Taylor, Reid, Mathieu and Claiborne all among the Tigers' top five tacklers. 

So call all of that a draw. What about matchups? The Tide will be facing the toughest cover in the head-to-head in the form of Rueben Randle, now leading the SEC in average yards per-completion by a substanial margin, and they can't forget about true freshman Odell Beckham Jr. (27 receptions, 334 yards). Those are two of only three LSU targets in double-digit receptions for the year, though, while the Tide boast seven. Marquis Maze (pictured at the top of this post, opposite Mathieu in the 2010 meeting) leads the way, of course, with 39  catches and 482 yards.

So as with so many other aspects of LSU-Alabama, who wins the head-to-head between the secondaries will likely come down to whether the Tide can stop the big play. They couldn't last year, when the Tigers averaged 15 yards a completion. And on the other side of the ball, as relatively mistake-free as AJ McCarron has been, he hasn't faced the ball-hawking likes of Mathieu and Claiborne yet.

But if Barron and Lester can provide the necessary help against Randle over the top and McCarron stays in control, the matchup should swing in the Tide's favor--between their wider array of targets on offense and the LSU secondary's occasional pliability (see the 463 passing yards yielded to West Virginia), they should be more able to consistently disrupt the LSU passing game more often than LSU disrputs theirs. Especially with the Tide defenders having the advantage of homefield, we'll give the thinnest of  edges to Alabama here.

THE LATEST FROM BATON ROUGE: That this LSU-Alabama game has already reached such colossal importance means it's a good time to remind fans of both sides that there's things that are actually more important than football (it's true!), and the continuing efforts to provide relief in the wake of the tragic April 27 tornadoes that ripped through the Tuscaloosa area are one of those things.

That's why Louisana chefs John Folse and Rick Tramonto have paired up with Tide football legend Bob Baumhower to hold the first-ever "Lousi-Bama Gumbo Bowl," a charity fund-raising event for tornado relief to be held outside Bryan-Denny Stadium ... and produce the new Guinness World Record holder for the Largest Pot of Gumbo. If you weren't interested before ... 

The team will create a monster pot of gumbo, using a 300-year-old cast iron pot from the sugar cane fields of South Louisiana. The World's Largest Gumbo recipe calls for 750 pounds shrimp, 450 pounds catfish fillets, 100 pounds claw crabmeat, 50 pounds white crabmeat, 200 pounds alligator meat, and 25 pounds Louisiana crawfish tail meat.

The recipe will include 200 pounds of diced onions, 75 pounds of diced celery, 100 pounds of diced green bell pepper, 150 pounds of sliced okra, 50 pounds of dehydrated garlic, and 20 pounds of butter. After simmering for three hours, the pot will be weighed via a forklift. Then, the delicious, steaming contents will be doled out to hungry football fans during the pre-game tailgate.

Pardon us while we wipe up our drool. Tickets to the event can be purchased here. For more information (including the charities to benefit, click here

LSU's coaches have been committed to showing their defense a running back with something like Trent Richardson's power in practice. How committed? Richardson's role on the scout team has been played by a linebacker, freshman Trevon Randle. Not that Claiborne is planning on going strength-on-strength with Richardson no matter how much practice he gets on Randle. 

"Any way you can get him on the ground, you just get him on the ground,” Claiborne said of the Tide star. “I know where I’m going. I’m going for the legs.” (Not a bad plan, Morris, though we doubt Randle's going to help get you ready for feet like these, either.)

Via And the Valley Shookthe LSU film department has put together a trailer for the game. And it's one we find hard to imagine won't get the blood pumping for both Tiger fan and neutrals alike:

THE LATEST FROM TUSCALOOSA: Hey speaking of Richardson, we've got some good news for LSU fans. Here's what he said Thursday about the bye week:

“My body is probably in the best condition it's been in since I've been in college, and now I get a break, and my body will feel even better when I come back.” 

Oh, wait, sorry; that's terrible news.

Overall, the Tide's attitude towards LSU has been what you'd expect: respect, but clearly not too much respect. See, for instance, this al.com video of Maze discussing Mathieu. Or this quote from senior center William Vlachos on the LSU defense:

“They're dominant,” Vlachos said. “They're solid all the way around. Their coordinator does a really good job with their defense. That's something everybody's been talking about, and we're looking forward to the challenge of playing against a great defense.”

That's nice and all, but where's the bulletin board material, guys? (Our best guess: somewhere on the LSU side. Both teams are very much reflections of their head coaches, and who do you think might slip up and say something overconfident and/or "smack"-like: Saban or Les Miles?)

The honors have continued to roll in for the Tide defense. Dont'a Hightower, Courtney Upshaw and offensive lineman Barrett Jones three of the 12 semifinalists for the Lombardi Award,  and Hightower and Barron have been named quarterfinalists for the Lott IMPACT Award.

Posted on: October 28, 2011 12:13 pm
Edited on: October 28, 2011 6:43 pm

Big 12 makes West Virginia official

Posted by Tom Fornelli

As first reported by CBSSports.com's Brett McMurphy on Friday morning, the Big 12 has invited West Virginia to join the conference and West Virginia accepted the invitation, informing the Big East of the decision on Friday.

The move is now official as the Big 12 has released a statement about West Virginia.

"The Big 12 Presidents and Chancellors are excited to welcome another outstanding institution to the Conference," said Burns Hargis, Chair of the Big 12 Board of Directors in the release. "The addition of West Virginia, while expanding the reach of the Big 12, brings an impressive institution with esteemed academics and a proud athletic tradition into the Conference. This is another step in building a strong foundation for the future of the Big 12." 

"The Big 12 is a perfect fit for West Virginia University," said WVU President Dr. James P. Clements. "It is a strong conference that, like WVU, values quality academic and athletic programs, and has a great tradition of success. This is a very exciting time for WVU and Mountaineer nation. I am confident that the future of WVU athletics has never been more promising."

West Virginia to the Big 12
What is not so clear at this point is when West Virginia will be joining the Big 12, According to the Big 12's release on Friday, the school would become a member of the conference beginning on July 1, 2012. However, the Big East said on Friday that it plans on holding West Virginia to the same 27-month notice that it is holding Pitt and Syracuse to. If that is the case, then West Virginia can't join the Big 12 until 2014.

During a conference call on Friday afternoon announcing the deal, West Virginia said that it plans on being in the Big 12 by July 2012, but it's not official as of yet. From Chip Patterson's post:
Both [athletic director Oliver] Luck and [President James] Clements repeatedly used the target date "July 1, 2012" as the school's expected arrival in the Big 12. When multiple questions were posed to West Virginia's leadership on how they planned to leave before the completion 27-month period - the response was predictably vague.

"Our team and their team were in discussion today, tying to make that happen," Luck said of the negotiations with the Big East office. 
How West Virginia would go about that, the odds are that the answer is money. The Big East may be willing to let the Mountaineers leave early if the school pays far more than the $5 million exit fee. What exactly the amount would be for that, well, as Luck said above, those discussions are currently being held.

Of course, this does not answer every question about this announced move. Generally over the last few weeks when West Virginia was a rumored target of the Big 12, it was always with the caveat that the conference wouldn't bring in another school unless Missouri left the conference first. Well, as of the news that West Virginia had accepted an invitation on Friday, Missouri had yet to announce that it was leaving for the SEC.

Though it's possible that Missouri's announcement could be coming in the next couple of days.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com