Middling Grade Equals ‘Nowhere’ For Big 12
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — There are very few things I remember from the sociology course I took back in high school, except for part of one exceptional teacher’s lectures in which he made a point that lasted forever.
He was speaking of reaching one’s potential, striving to be the best one can be, and as he did he got around to the grading system that was in place and noted that if you were an A or B student you were somewhere and even if you were getting Ds and Fs you were at a place from which you could improve.
“But,” he would add, “if you are a C student you are nowhere.”
There was no identity to come with being in the middle of the pack. You should never settle for Cs.
This lecture came back in a rush to me recently when I came across an article by Scooby Axson in Sports Illustrated, an article written in the wake of Clemson’s victory over Alabama in the CFP to win the National Championship.
What Axson did was assign a letter grade to each of the Power 5 and Group of 5 conferences, along with the six independent schools based on their performances over the past season.
Rather than provide any suspense, we cut to the root of what we are addressing here and that is the Big 12 was given a C-.
Not even a C. It got a C-.
OK, it wasn’t in as awful a situation as the Pac 12, which was given the only F in the grades, but it certainly didn’t live up to all of its self-congratulatory praise that it heaps upon itself each year.
Now it’s true it was home to the Heisman Trophy winner for the second straight year and it did have a team in Oklahoma that made it into the four-team playoff, although when the playoffs were over many wondered if, indeed, the Sooners should have been chosen over Georgia.
But we’re not here to argue with the A that was given to the SEC or the B to the ACC or even the B- that went to the Big Ten.
Instead, we are here to make note that West Virginia wound up tied for third in what was judged the eighth-best conference in college football.
Or, as cited in that long ago sociology class, it ended up “nowhere.”
WVU, for all the hype, was ranked behind the Mountain West, the Independent (which did include Notre Dame and Army), the Sun Belt, the American and, yes, even Conference USA.
What was the thinking?
Here is the analysis of the Big 12:
“Oklahoma set the pace for the Big 12 once again, with Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray leading the way to a fourth-straight conference title and another appearance in the playoff. Texas proclaimed itself “back” with an impressive win against Georgia in the Sugar Bowl, but the inconsistency of would-be contenders Iowa State and West Virginia limited the league’s top tier to two teams. Everyone else except Kansas had surprising highs and discouraging lows, clearing the runway for the Sooners and Longhorns. And the league did little to dispel the notion that it is philosophically opposed to defense: Half the Big 12’s 10 teams finished 100th or worse in passing yards allowed, including Texas Tech and Oklahoma, the bottom two teams in the nation in that category.”
And what did this mean?
In truth, it meant that the league was overrun with mediocrity, dragged down by WVU and Iowa State’s inability to play up to its expectation.
But more important is the image the league exudes … “the league did little to dispel the notion that it is philosophically opposed to defense: Half the Big 12’s 10 teams finished 100th or worse in passing yards allowed, including Texas Tech and Oklahoma, the bottom two teams in the nation in that category.”
Let that sink in and apply it to WVU last year. The Mountaineers increased their running attempts in a league where half the teams were 100th or worse in passing yards allowed and where two teams were the absolute worst in the nation.
It is unreasonable to assume that the Big 12 simply amasses the greatest passers and receivers in the land, or certainly the nation is rife with big time quarterbacks, so the accusation that is philosophically opposed to defense isn’t very farfetched.
The league is built on Longhorns and Cowboys and in the Old West out of which it grew there was no defense for a bullet and where the quickest draw wore the white hat and rode the palomino into the sunset.
Perhaps a new coaching staff it West Virginia, headed by Neal Brown out of Troy, will understand that you can’t spell undefeated without a D and you can’t go undefeated without one, either.