Big 12 football: Bigger stage awaits WVU, Texas meeting
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia's first Big 12 Conference game is at noon and on a fringe cable network Saturday. The first road game will get a bigger stage.
The league announced Monday that No. 9 WVU's Oct. 6 game at No. 12 Texas will kick off at 7 p.m. and be televised on Fox. Saturday's home game against Baylor is on FX, though it's also Homecoming, an occasion Coach Dana Holgorsen hopes generates a better environment.
"We're looking forward to a very festive, fun Saturday this coming week," he said. "I thought the energy and excitement level last week was very average, not only from a player standpoint, but from a coaching standpoint and from an atmosphere standpoint. I expect that to be totally different this week. It's something they're looking forward to and I think the players will respond as well."
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WVU QUARTERBACK Geno Smith is second nationally in total offense (379.67 yards per game) and trails only Baylor's Nick Florence. Smith trails another conference rival, TCU's Casey Pachall in passing efficiency, and first-week opponent Rakeem Cato, of Marshall, in passing yards per game (357.3).
Smith, Texas Tech's Seth Doege, Tennessee's Tyler Bray and USC's Matt Barkley are tied for the national lead with 12 touchdown passes.
When combined, Smith continues to serve as the presumed leader in the Heisman Trophy competition, something Baylor knows a bit about after following 2011 winner Robert Griffin III last season.
"It's constant," Baylor Coach Art Briles said. "It's kind of like a golf game. You make one bad shot and all of a sudden everyone is talking about it instead of the 68 others that you hit right. That's kind of what happens when you get in this hunt."
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KANSAS STATE'S win Saturday at Oklahoma, where the Sooners had been 14-0 against ranked teams under Coach Bob Stoops, made the Wildcats the Big 12's top-ranked team. They checked in at No. 7 in the Associated Press poll, best among the six ranked conference teams.
Kansas State is off this week and Coach Bill Snyder isn't sure what to think of that.
"Ask me in two weeks," he said.
"We've had this before. Sometimes it's been good and sometimes it has not. The important thing is how we handle the first week."
The Wildcats (4-0) trailed North Texas the previous week 7-0 and led 14-13 early in the third quarter when the Mean Green missed an extra point. They went on to win 35-21 and then responded to a relatively close call by beating Oklahoma and winning the Tostitos National Team of the Week honor.
"This is always about how you respond to a variety of circumstances," Snyder said. "That will be significant during this week of practice because everyone in the world wants to pat them on the back - not that they're not deserving of accolades. It's just harder in this day and age to keep things in perspective and just keep going on."
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TCU IS LEADING the country in a pair of categories that might not seem to go together. The 15th-ranked Horned Frogs have played a NCAA-high 15 true freshmen in a 3-0 start.
Before last year, Coach Gary Patterson had never played more than three true freshmen in a season.
"It's been one of the more fun years since I've been coaching, but it's also been a tear-your-hair-out year," said Patterson, who is in his 12th season at the school. "You don't know quite what to expect, so it's been challenging.
"It's the difference in being a parent and dealing with a 17-year-old and a 23-year old. The biggest thing is handling the grind for the 18-year-old kids. Last week they had two or three tests and they didn't catch up on the game plan until Thursday or Friday with everything else going down with the week."
Despite their youth, the Horned Frogs also lead the rest of college football with an 11-game winning streak.
"It's a long season so I think you have to have other things to talk about other than how the team is playing," Patterson said. "The coach's job is to get the team to play well. He doesn't have any control over the other team, so it's about how to motivate them on a week-to-week basis and get them ready to play."
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THE BIG 12 leads the six major conferences in a number of critical statistical categories: yards per game (501.53), points per game (41.5), yards per play (6.8), offensive plays per game (74), pass completions per game (23.7), fewest punts per game (3.2) and remarkably, with the league's reputation for passing offenses, fewest turnovers per game (1.47).
"All we have to do it tell our guys who played last year the eight games we won, we won the turnover ratio. The five games we lost, we lost the turnover ratio," Texas Coach Mack Brown said. "We went back over the 15 years we've been here and I think when we won the turnover ratio we were, like, 75-0.
"It's an amazing stat and one we all talk about. A lot of guys have to realize that probably other than scoring and keeping people from scoring, that's the one that leads to winning games and if you look it up that's the one that leads to losing to lesser teams."
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WVU RECEIVER Tavon Austin, who had 13 receptions Saturday against Maryland to match teammate Stedman Bailey's one-week-old school record, was named the Big 12's offensive player of the week Monday. He had 179 yards and three touchdowns receiving.
Smith and linebacker Isaiah Bruce were named the offensive and defensive players of the week after the opening weekend.
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.