MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- In 1996, the Big 12 Conference was born out of a merger from the Big 8 and four Texas-based schools from the Southwest Conference.
The Big 12, wanting its own identity, opted to leave behind the history of the Big 8 and Southwest when that merger occurred, but in the years since the new league - which had a dozen members until realignment saw four charter members depart - has created its own rich tradition of college football.
Since Ricky Williams and his dreadlocks rumbled through the Big 12 in 1998, the league has had five Heisman Trophy winners. That includes Williams, the former Texas Longhorn and the only running back of the group.
Quarterbacks from Nebraska (Eric Crouch, 2001), Oklahoma (Jason White in 2003 and Sam Bradford in 2008) and Baylor (Robert Griffin III, 2011) also hoisted the hardware.
That's five of the last 13 winners from one conference. In that span, the Southeastern Conference has produced three Heisman winners. The Pac-10 (now the Pac-12) had two winners - if we're not counting Southern California's Reggie Bush.
The Big Ten also had two winners in the same span and the Atlantic Coast Conference one. The Big East hasn't had a player take college football's top individual honor since Miami's Gino Torretta in 1992.
Griffin III could still be at Baylor had he not opted to forgo his final year of eligibility, which means he'd be at Mountaineer Field this Saturday instead of starting at quarterback for the Washington Redskins at Tampa Bay on Sunday.
But RG3's legacy lingers, and not just because of his Superman socks. He is a reminder of what's possible for West Virginia as the program makes its Big 12 debut against the unbeaten Bears. "Now the Big 12 is upon us," second-year Mountaineers Coach Dana Holgorsen said at his weekly press conference Tuesday afternoon. "I think over the course of time West Virginia, our football team and everyone else will get more familiar with the Big 12 and the Big 12 will get familiar with West Virginia."
We've touched on the players who've carried the stiff-arm trophy home after putting up monster numbers in this league. Those eye-popping numbers are more prevalent in the Big 12 than the Big East, where the Mountaineers' football program called home since 1995.
Take a look at the team leaders in total offense through this season's first four weeks. Oklahoma State, where Holgorsen used to teach offense, is tops nationally. Texas Tech, another one of Holgorsen's stops, is No.
2. Baylor, which is coached by Art Briles, one of Holgorsen's fellow assistants at Texas Tech, is No. 6 in total offense.
West Virginia is No. 14, Texas is No. 16 and Oklahoma is No. 23.
That is six of the Big 12's 10 members in the top 25 in total offense. The Big East has one on the list - Syracuse at No.
25. No other league has more than three teams, including the offensive-friendly Pac-12.