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Mountaineer Gameday: Weekend to give us better look at Big 12’s depth

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Big 12 conference: bad at membership math; good at tackle football.

Think Geno Smith's nine touchdown passes against nine incompletions is impressive? Well, West Virginia's new 10-team league has a matching number that might turn a helmet or two. That digit is three.

As in three weeks of the season complete, three losses for the Big 12. And one of those was unavoidable in this non-tie era of football (TCU beat Kansas 20-6 to commence conference play last week).

OK, so perhaps the early portion of the league's collective schedule has been softer than this sportswriter's belly. Consider, if you will, additional data that highlights the strong start by the Mountaineers and their first-year brethren.

Eight programs - Memphis, Houston, Massachusetts, Eastern Michigan, Wyoming, UNLV, Colorado and Idaho - are off to 0-3 starts, which means each of those teams have as many losses as the 10 Big 12 teams combined.

The losses, by league, after the Big 12: Big East (seven), Big Ten (10), Pac 12 (10), SEC (12) and ACC (13).

The Football Bowl Subdivision opponents of the Big 12 are collectively 24-25, but that doesn't include nine games against FCS teams.

Kansas is responsible for two of the league's three losses (to Rice and TCU), and Oklahoma State has the other blemish thanks to first-year Arizona Coach Rich Rodriguez. The other eight Big 12 teams are undefeated as college football enters the penultimate weekend of September.

The league has been recognized, accordingly.

Nine of the league's 10 teams are nationally ranked or receiving votes in the media poll or coaches poll. The two-loss Jayhawks, of course, are the lone outsider.

The Big 12 is tied with the SEC with six ranked teams in the coaches poll. The Pac 12 has five ranked teams, including Rodriguez's Wildcats. The Big Ten has four teams in the top 25, the ACC two and the Big East one.

Three of the nation's top five winning streaks are owned by teams in the Big 12, including the longest by new league member TCU (10 straight wins). Baylor has won eight consecutive games and WVU is on a six-game roll.

Be it the offensive potential of the league or the favorable early season schedule - or a combination of the two - the individual numbers have been gaudy.

Smith, as many in the Mountain State know, is off to a dazzling start statistically. Against Marshall and James Madison, Smith is 66-for-75 with 734 yards, nine touchdowns and zero interceptions.  

He is second in the nation in passing efficiency (209.81), but also second in the Big 12.

TCU's Casey Pachall is first, and Big 12 quarterbacks David Ash (Texas), J.W. Walsh (Oklahoma State) and Seth Doege (Texas Tech) are fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively.

Yep, of all the signal callers in the highest level of college football, five of the top six in passing efficiency call the Big 12 home.  

Maybe we'll learn more about the legitimacy of the league's depth this weekend.

Baylor at Louisiana-Monroe won't shatter Friday night television ratings, but the Bears will be in the national spotlight against a Sun Belt team that beat Arkansas and forced overtime against Auburn this season.

On Saturday, TCU hosts Virginia, Maryland visits West Virginia, Kansas hits the road to play Northern Illinois and No. 15 Kansas State travels to No. 6 Oklahoma.

The Wildcats-Sooners clash of ranked teams guarantee at least one more loss for the Big 12.

Kansas is the only Big 12 underdog this weekend, so there's a chance the league could have four losses in four weeks before they start beating up on each other.

Twelve doesn't equal 10, but when a league's total losses equal the number of weeks in the season, that's math that'll really boggle the mind.


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