AP Rankings One Angle On WVU Football
MORGANTOWN — It has kind of crept up on us, too slowly to panic over but approaching a point where something has to be done about it.
And what’s that, you say?
West Virginia University football’s inability to muscle its way into the nation’s top programs.
The transition period into the Big 12 is over and it’s time, considering the assets that have been thrown into the program, to have it join its conference brothers among the nation’s elite.
Caught up in researching the prospects for the 2018 season, we stumbled across the AP rankings over the six years in which the Mountaineers have participated in the Big 12 Conference.
While aware that things had not gone particularly as well as they seemed to have gone — thinking back to so many high points along the way and star players from Geno Smith, Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin to David Sills and Will Grier — it sort of slithered by that only once in those six years was WVU ranked in AP’s final Top 25.
That was in 2016 when the Mountaineers compiled a 10-3 record, and the ranking was no better than No. 18.
Other than that, in five of the six years they did not finish the season among the nation’s Top 25, according to the AP rankings.
This went by unnoticed because in five of those six regular seasons they spent a good bit of time in the rankings, once as high as No. 5.
There were exciting games, school records being broken, players heading into the NFL … but they couldn’t close the deal on the seasons.
Their record in the final three games of the last six seasons is just 7-11 and that is not going to keep you in the Top 25, even if you are there entering the closing weeks of the year.
Twice WVU lost the final three games of the year, although last year they get a pass — well, actually an inability to pass — due to the injury that sidelined Grier.
The bowl performance has been particularly disheartening with just one win in five games since joining the Big 12, that by a point over Arizona State in a rather minor bowl appearance.
The truth is West Virginia is in the second division of the 10-team Big 12 Conference since joining, ranking sixth in winning percentage of all games.
While they have been in the conference with Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, they haven’t been in the same class, never having beaten the Sooners, who have dominated league play.
The combined standings of all games shows Oklahoma far ahead of everyone with a 63-16 record, Oklahoma State next at 55-23, Kansas State and TCU, which entered the league at the same time as WVU, tied at 51-17 and then Baylor at 48-29.
Even Baylor, which went 1-11 last season as it took a dive after being penalized for its scandalous behavior and firing its coach, is five games better than the Mountaineers.
Now we are going to hear from some who can’t wait to mention that the Mountaineers have compiled a better record than one of the conference’s highest profile school’s, Texas, which is true.
There is a difference, though, and that is that Texas has, at least, approached the problem with zeal and has had three coaches as it proactively made changes in an effort to capture past glories.
This is a crucial year for Dana Holgorsen as he comes into it with Grier at quarterback as a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate and in a situation where a return on the Mountaineers’ investment in salaries, facilities and increased recruiting efforts, to say nothing of the step up in class in conferences and the professional marketing approach, must be realized.
While a Top 25 ranking seems to be a major accomplishment when you have had only one in six years, it is hardly unattainable.
This is especially true if you look at it in terms of the idea that there are five power conferences in the country, which means that over time you would expect five schools from each conference to fit into the rankings structure.
What is disheartening is, when you think of this, the Big 12 has not had as many as five teams in the AP Final 25 since WVU joined the conference. True, it has the fewest members with just 10, but only once has it had as many as four in the Top 25.
All other Power 5 conferences have had at least four teams in the Top 25 four of the six years. which indicates that WVU should be able to find a way to move forward in conference whose strength of schedule rating has been on the decline since WVU and TCU joined.
Here are the Big 12 standings since WVU came into the conference: Oklahoma (63-16), Oklahoma State (55-23), Kansas State (51-27), TCU (51-27), Baylor (48-29), WVU (43-34), Texas (40-36), Texas Tech (38-38), Iowa State (24-48) and Kansas (10-65).
In bowls: Oklahoma State (4-2), Baylor (3-2), TCU (3-2), Kansas State (3-3), Texas (2-2), Texas Tech (2-2), Iowa State (1-1), Oklahoma (2-4), WVU (1-4), Kansas (0-0).