MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - What happened to West Virginia's football program Thursday was expected.
The Mountaineers were picked second in the Big 12 Conference preseason media poll and received seven of the 41 first-place votes. A day earlier, players said they thought Oklahoma would finish first, hoped to see WVU's name second and were prepared for anything below that given their status as a newcomer to the league.
Well, the Sooners were No. 1, and WVU was second and a spot above Texas. Fellow newcomer TCU was fifth.
With that now settled, it's what happens on the field that matters most to the Mountaineers.
"This is a new conference and we've got some big things to prove," said receiver Stedman Bailey. "Of course this is one of the better conferences in all college football, and we're looked at to be one of the better teams in the Big 12. I'd say we have a lot to prove."
The Sooners were picked first for the fifth time in the poll's 17 years. History suggests it will be difficult to deny Oklahoma the title. The preseason pick has been the eventual champion all but four times (2000, 2001, 2007 and 2011).
The Mountaineers play host to the Sooners Nov. 17.
"It's nice to know where you stand and how others view you, but when it comes down, we play against them," freshman receiver Jordan Thompson said. "Everyone is going to get tested."
Oklahoma has won seven Big 12 titles since the conference began playing in 1996. Each was in the past 12 years (2000, 2002, 2004, 2006-08 and 2010) and ended with a BCS appearance. The Sooners were an at-large BCS selection in 2003.
In the same time, WVU won at least a share of six Big East titles (2003-05, 2007, 2010-11) and represented the league in the BCS three times (2005, 2007, 2011). The Mountaineers beat Oklahoma in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl following the 2007 regular season.
However, since the Big East was forced to realign in 2004 after losing Virginia Tech and Miami to the Atlantic Coast Conference, and Boston College a year later, the Big 12 has had a better RPI in six of the eight years. It was Nos. 1 and 2 three times each and its average rank in the eight years was No. 2.3. The Big East was Nos. 1 and 2 once each with an average ranking of No. 5.7.