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Chuck McGill: Kingsbury's confidence, Holgorsen's regrets and the road ahead

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- The skies were gray, so Texas Tech Coach Kliff Kingsbury didn't need his signature Oakley sunglasses.

The Next Big Thing in college football, who at 33 years old is the third-youngest coach in the FBS, couldn't hide as he sauntered the sidelines at Mountaineer Field on Saturday afternoon. His team scored the first 13 points and the last three touchdowns, trailed by double digits late in the third quarter and the Red Raiders, like their confident leader, stayed cool and collected in their first true road test.

In contrast, third-year West Virginia Coach Dana Holgorsen was as animated as ever. He stood on the numbers and shouted at offensive players. He called a timeout to rally the defense. No headset was safe in the Mountaineers' 37-27 loss that kept Kingsbury undefeated as a head coach.

Afterward, Kingsbury talked about the Red Raiders' confidence and said "fortunes favor the bold." Holgorsen confessed he was "scared" to put backup defenders in to give the starters a breather and he "regretted" a decision to pass on potential points to instead go for it on fourth down early in the Big 12 loss.

"It's a game we should've won," he said in a press conference reply that seemed aimed at no one in particular.

Two men who are different in few ways are in two very different situations.

But, what if WVU had its Big 12 schedule inverted?

It wouldn't be 7-0 and vastly overrated at No. 10, like Texas Tech. But WVU wouldn't be below .500 in late October, which hasn't happened since 2003.

The Mountaineers are 3-4 overall and 1-3 in its second Big 12 season, but the remaining schedule looks like what Texas Tech faced to climb into the top 10 in the eyes of voters. WVU still has games against three teams below it in the standings: Kansas State, Kansas and Iowa State. All three are 0-3 in league play.

Throw in a road game against TCU in a couple weeks, and those four opponents are a combined 1-12 in the Big 12. The outlier is re-energized Texas, which is perfect in conference play. The Mountaineers get the Longhorns in Morgantown on Nov. 9.

Texas Tech, meanwhile, still hasn't played a team with a winning record. It defeated Southern Methodist, which only has a win against Montana State. It routed Stephen F. Austin, a 3-4 FCS team with wins over McMurry, Montana State and Nicholls State.

The Red Raiders are the better team, but probably not by much. The ebb and flow of Saturday's game in front of 54,084 at Mountaineer Field occurs when a pair of average to better-than-average teams meet. There is some good, bad and ugly.

WVU's first four Big 12 games have come against nationally ranked teams: Baylor (ranked No. 6 in Sunday's Associated Press Top 25), Texas Tech (now No. 10), Oklahoma (No. 17) and Oklahoma State (No. 19).

The Red Raiders could be set up like the 2012 Mountaineers. WVU was already in the top 10 when it won at Texas to start the season at 5-0, but it was all downhill from there. West Virginia is 5-10 since beating the Longhorns.

Texas Tech sandwiches the two most difficult road games the Big 12 has to offer - at Oklahoma and at Texas - around a trio of home games. Two of those games Texas Tech gets to host are against preseason Big 12 favorite Oklahoma State and one of the nation's hottest teams, Baylor.

The Red Raiders are more likely to scuffle to an 8-4 finish than crash the BCS. If that happens, Texas Tech will finish 5-4 and possibly join the Mountaineers in the middle of the pack in the Big 12.

WVU's lighter schedule, however, offers few guarantees. Holgorsen's Mountaineers have lost six of their last seven games outside of the Mountain State. Three of the final five games are on the road, so West Virginia needs to break serve somewhere to even get bowl eligible - and that assumes home wins against Texas and Iowa State.

Things are certainly much different right now for the protege and the mentor. In the moments after Saturday's game, the two shook hands at midfield. Holgorsen hustled to the Puskar Center, then watched from behind the glass as Texas Tech celebrated.

Kingsbury jogged toward the visiting team tunnel, smiled and waved at the Texas Tech crowd. He pumped his fist and embraced the adulation. Right now, he is perfect.

Holgorsen knows from experience -- that doesn't last.

 


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