MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- West Virginia's introduction to the Big 12 Conference this Saturday serves as a perfect indoctrination to a new league and a new lifestyle.
Among college football's six power conferences, none does offense better than the Big 12. And not one does defense better than the Big East, which is WVU's former home and is also last among the six in scoring offense and fifth in offensive yards per game.
The No. 9 Mountaineers, who accepted the Big 12's invitation last October and joined July 1, start things off by playing host to No. 25 Baylor at noon Saturday from Mountaineer Field (FX telecast). The Bears (3-0) are No. 5 in the nation in scoring offense (51.3 points per game) and No. 6 in total offense (568.7 yards per game).
"If you think we're going to shut them down," WVU Coach Dana Holgorsen said, "you're nuts."
What's really crazy is Baylor is one of three Big 12 teams residing in the top 10 in scoring and total offense - and the Bears are below Oklahoma State and Texas Tech in both. WVU (3-0) and Texas are in the top 15 of both.
Gone are the days of northeastern football, running games, field position and time of possession.
The Mountaineers are about to feel and share a style influenced by the southwest, where kids grow up in spread offenses and college coaches recruit those players and plug them into similar systems knowing they're more ready to play than most others around the country.
"This isn't like playing in the SEC with two-tight end formations and two running backs in the backfield and a power running game," said WVU co-defensive coordinator Keith Patterson, who coached high school football in Texas and Oklahoma before entering the college realm. "This is going to be a lot different."
The oddsmakers predict WVU and Baylor will combine to score 82 points. That sounds like a lot, but it's more than two touchdowns fewer than what the two teams have thus far combined to score. WVU and its opponent combined for 103 points in the Orange Bowl in January and then the season opener Sept. 1. The Mountaineers and an opponent hadn't topped 82 points since WVU beat Connecticut 66-21 on Nov. 24, 2007.
Changes in performance come with changes in expectations, too. Half of the league's 10 defenses last season ranked between Nos. 95-120 nationally in total defense and three were in the bottom 25 in scoring defense.
Defenses didn't win championships, though. Oklahoma State won the Big 12 and the Fiesta Bowl, but was No. 97 in total defense. Baylor won 10 games and the Alamo Bowl with Heisman Trophy quarterback Robert Griffin III, but was in the bottom 25 in both defensive rankings.
When WVU defensive coordinator Joe DeForest gets his eyes on a box score after a game, he doesn't look at yards his defense allowed. He knows Big 12 teams will move the ball. He's instead worried about how his defense can minimize the damage.