A Difficult Challenge

  • By Tony Caridi
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  • September 27, 2012 05:00 PM
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Words may be getting in the way of accurately describing the significance and challenge the Mountaineer football team is about to embark upon.

By now you’ve probably grown tired of the verbiage dispensed to set the scene of WVU’s maiden voyage in the Big 12 Conference.

We’ve read all the text about travel, talent, and everything Texas. Yeah, we know, it’s going to be bigger and better than anything we’ve ever experienced. The teams will be better, the stadiums will be bigger, and the fans will be louder.


Since words can’t properly do the job, let’s give numbers a try. As a matter of full disclosure, I’m not a math expert, but I did take a statistics class in college, which makes me eminently qualified to dispense the following digits.

To put things in perspective, West Virginia University has played 205 games in the history of Milan Puskar Stadium, dating back to its opening in 1980. During that time the national anthem has been sung on two occasions: Kathy Mattea performed it prior to the Marshall game in 1997 and Landau Eugene Murphy presented his rendition last season before the LSU game.

That means before Trace Adkins does his thing this Saturday, the anthem has been sung at the stadium 0.97 percent of the time.

Miniscule right?

Wait, I have something just as small for you. As of this writing, the Mountaineers are scheduled to play five teams currently ranked in the Top 25. How many times do you think that’s happened in 119 previous seasons? If you said once, then please immediately head to the front of the class and collect your gold and blue star. Once - just one time, Uno - that’s how many times a Mountaineer squad has been asked to do what’s being requested of this year’s team. Statistically, that means a Mountaineer team has played five nationally ranked schools 0.8 percent of the time.

Please feel free to call this rarified air. Consider that the nation’s top two total offensive leaders (Geno Smith and Nick Florence) will be on the field this Saturday along with the top four receivers in the Big 12, according to this week’s conference statistics.

It certainly has the makings of a classic, but after this date with nationally ranked Baylor, there’s next week’s trip to No. 12 Texas, the following week’s visit to Texas Tech, and oh yeah, that No. 7 Kansas State game is coming up in just four weeks. That’s three games in four weeks against ranked teams. The only stretch more difficult came in 1959 when the Mountaineers faced Pitt, Syracuse, Penn State, and Southern California on consecutive weeks. All four schools were nationally ranked. WVU wasn’t ranked that season and lost three of the four games.

You get the picture … words really don’t tell the story of this Big 12 thing. So go ahead and let the wordsmiths try to do their best.

The numbers really tell the story, and what a story we’ll have to tell if the Mountaineers can navigate the challenges that lie ahead.


Tony Caridi, West Virginia University Mountaineers, WVU, Big 12 Conference