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Transition to Big 12 easier with key players

By Jack Bogaczyk

The urgency for West Virginia football to get into the Big 12 for the next school year should be about more than keeping the conference's telecast deal intact.

Coming off an impressive Orange Bowl victory over Clemson, West Virginia needs to get into a much tougher football challenge with a team that can really compete, not one that will be playing in 2013 with a new starting quarterback and no Tavon Austin.

If WVU doesn't play Big 12 football until 2013, they'd be looking at a potential bottom-half transition while rebuilding in the 10-team conference standings.

If you've perused some of the "way early" prognostications for 2012 - granted, some of these can be right out of a Punxsutawney burrow's zip code - the Mountaineers are highly regarded for their presumed Big 12 debut.

That's because they'll be making it with quarterback Geno Smith, Austin and four other experienced receivers, running back Shawne Alston, four offensive line starters returning (including guard Josh Jenkins, who missed 2011 injured) and a new defensive scheme with seven starters back.

Using four of those early polls - done after the bowls and some even tweaked after signing day - WVU fares well among Big 12 members for next season, with Oklahoma the highest-ranked league team in all four (ESPN, Sporting News, Sports Illustrated and Athlon).

In those four website top 25s, in order, West Virginia ranked Nos. 7, 10, 13 and 13 nationally. WVU was second to the Sooners (Nos. 4, 7, 7, 5) in three of the four, and third behind No. 12 Texas in Athlon and No. 10 TCU in SI.

Each poll had six of the 10 Big 12 programs in the top 25 (Oklahoma, WVU, Texas, Kansas State, TCU, Oklahoma State). By comparison, using a Big East scale, WVU was the only team in those polls except for a No. 23 spot for Louisville, by Athlon.

WVU has finished no worse than second - including six outright or shared titles - in the last 10 Big East seasons. The degree of difficulty will be much greater for Coach Dana Holgorsen's program now, but getting where the Mountaineers are going with Geno will aid the orientation process greatly.

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  • IT WILL be no surprise here if Florida State files a lawsuit for liquidated damages for the WVU cancellation of their Sept. 8 football game at Doak Campbell Stadium. The deal has a Mountaineer "out" if the Seminoles can find a "comparable" opponent.

    However, none of the other seven Big East teams that will have an opening because of WVU leaving the conference are comparable, because they won't help land a likely top-15 matchup on ESPN in prime time with all the Tallahassee trappings of Lee Corso and Co.

    In an interview after getting WVU's cancellation letter last week, 'Noles AD Randy Spetman ticked off several possible "damages" to add to WVU's presumed $500,000 buyout of the game, including reduced ticket sales, possible travel costs for a fill-in foe, etc.

    "We have the buyout, there's that, and then there will be whatever liquidated damages," Spetman told the Orlando Srentinel. "If we aren't able to find another team, that's what we're going to have to look at. You're talking about a lot of money."

    Now, if FSU can convince Oklahoma - in need of a non-conference game - to come to Tallahassee for a second straight season, then that's a "comparable" opponent to WVU, not to mention something that could be facilitated through the Big 12 office.

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  • THE TWO Big East defectors besides WVU - Syracuse and Pittsburgh - learned more about their introduction to the ACC last week at that conference's league meetings, where athletic directors and faculty representatives approved scheduling models.

    When the Orange and Panthers join the league, the ACC will go to a nine-game conference football schedule, joining the Pac-12, Big 12 and Big Ten among its BCS brethren in playing nine league games in the future.

    Syracuse will be placed in the Atlantic Division (with Clemson and Florida State, etc.), and Pitt goes to the Coastal (with Virginia Tech, Miami, etc.). Pitt and SU will be each other's primary crossover scheduling partner.

    Each team will play the other six divisional foes and its crossover partner annually, plus two rotating foes from the other division. A six-year cycle allows each team to play divisional opponents and the primary crossover team six times (three home, three away) and face each rotating crossover opponent twice (home, away).

     In men's and women's basketball, the ACC already was moving from 16- to 18-game league schedules in 2012-13 even before the Pitt and Syracuse decision. When the ACC gets to 14 teams, there will be seven scheduling partnerships of nice geography (Boston College, Syracuse; Maryland, Pitt; Virginia Tech, Virginia; North Carolina, Duke; Georgia Tech, Clemson; Miami, Florida State; N.C. State, Wake Forest).

    In a three-year cycle, a team will face every ACC opponent at least once, with the geographic partners playing home and away annually. The other 12 rotate in groups of four; one year home and away; one year at home only and one year away only.  

    Over a three-year cycle, primary partners play six times and all other conference opponents play four times. All 14 members will play in the ACC Tournament annually, in a format to be determined.

    And make no mistake about it, the additions of Syracuse and Pitt were hoops-first moves by the ACC, after the previous expansion to 12 with VT, Miami and BC was made to boost football - which it has only marginally, and only through the Hokies' perennial 10 or 11 wins since moving.

    Contact Sports Editor Jack Bogaczyk at jackb@dailymail.com or 304-348-7949.


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