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Big 12 realities will soon become apparent

MORGANTOWN - Odds and ends and a few things I think I think - Things I don't understand edition:

All right, so I opened myself up for that one. Go ahead. Take your shots. There are plenty of things I don't understand, right?

Before we get to a couple that might not be on your obvious list, though, just a note about something that I do understand, which is that a week from now everything changes for West Virginia's football team.

I was considering this the other day and wondering exactly what it is that makes WVU's first season in the Big 12 so intriguing. The obvious answer is the upgrade in the quality of competition, but here is the actual difference.

Assuming that the Big East merely plugged Temple into West Virginia's spot in this year's schedule - which for the most part is true; although some of the dates might have change, the Owls are hosting all the teams WVU was scheduled to host and visiting those the Mountaineers would have visited - it's easy to make the comparisons. Just a few:

  • On Oct. 6, instead of hosting South Florida in its Big East opener, West Virginia plays No. 12 Texas in Austin.
  • On Oct. 20, a home game with Rutgers becomes a home game with No. 15 Kansas State.
  • A potential Big East title game at No. 20 Louisville on Nov. 3 is now a home game with No. 17 TCU. Think about that for a moment. The clear Big East favorite is ranked three spots below a team that was picked to finish fifth in the Big 12 and is just the fourth-highest-ranked team in the league.
  • A Nov. 10 home game with Cincinnati is now a trip to Stillwater to face Dana Holgorsen's old Oklahoma State team.
  • A potential Nov. 17 open date (Temple plays Army that day) is now a showdown at home with No. 6 Oklahoma.
  • And then there's the Oct. 27 Backyard Brawl at Pitt, which became an open date on the West Virginia slate. OK, so maybe that's not an upgrade.
  • Maybe.

    The really intriguing thing to me, though, is not just the quality of the competition, but the newness of it all. The Mountaineers play Maryland at home on Saturday and that's the last familiar opponent this season.

    Everything else is going to feel almost like a bowl game, either for its significance or for its freshness.

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  • Anyway, on to a couple of things I don't understand, beginning with the reaction in some quarters to the ACC's twin moves of adding Notre Dame and hiking its exit fee to roughly $50 million.

    Both were probably good moves on the part of the ACC, but only to an extent.

    As for Notre Dame, the Irish will help the ACC financially, no question. The huge TV contract the league signed just a year ago will now be renegotiated and everyone will get more money. In fact, because of that renegotiation, the exit fee will go up even more. The exit fee is three years of TV revenue for each school, and when that jumps the exit fee will be closer to $60 million.

    There's going to be complaining from ACC schools, though, as soon as Notre Dame takes one of its bowl spots. That was always a sore spot in the Big East and it will remain one in the ACC.

    It's still a good move, though, because the ACC's bowls are likely to be upgraded over the next few years because of the addition of Notre Dame. That's something Big East fans always seemed to have a hard time grasping. As bad as the Big East's bowl package was in recent years, it would have been even worse had a few of those bowls not had the potential to draw Notre Dame once every four years.

    In the ACC, Notre Dame isn't going to cause anywhere near the friction it cost in the Big East by being on "the basketball side.'' There's no such split in the ACC (even though some schools value the sport above football, at least they all play both). The reason Notre Dame rubbed Big East fans the wrong way was because the school could have rescued the football side and didn't. Playing five ACC games a year is more than enough to add value to that side of the league.

    As for the $50 million - or $60 million - exit fee, that's a pittance compared to the Big 12, the Big Ten and the Pac-12. If, for instance, Texas wanted to leave the Big 12 right now, it would cost the Longhorns at least $260 million after the school (and all others) signed over 13 years of TV rights. And it's unrecoverable. The only reason a school would want to leave is for more TV money, but even if another league could give you $40 million a year, it all goes back to the Big 12 because of the grant of rights.

    Florida State? It can pay a flat $50 million fee and at least recover part of that through increased TV money and other revenue sharing elsewhere.

    Not saying that's going to happen, but Florida State's ability to leave - or anyone else's - hasn't been thrown completely overboard, which is the case in the Big 12, the Big Ten and the Pac-12.

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  • And finally, Greg Schiano.

    OK, so I've never been a Schiano fan and I still don't understand what it is on his Rutgers resume that got him a head coaching gig in the NFL. No matter what he does, my memory of Schiano always will be calling a timeout at Mountaineer Field with four seconds to play in the half in order to force WVU to punt on fourth down from its own 20 in 2003. Really? He never considered that almost any play can run off four seconds?

    WVU lined up and Rasheed Marshall threw an 83-yard touchdown pass to Chris Henry against the Rutgers punt return team.

    On this one, though, I tend to side with Schiano. He's been criticized roundly - most pointedly by New York coach Tom Coughlin - for having his Tampa Bay defense still trying with five seconds left and the Giants kneeling on the ball to run out the clock. And I don't understand it.

    At first, having not seen the play, I agreed. Schiano's excuse that his team was going to play until the last whistle sounded amateurish and naive. The NFL is different than college. When the game's over, it's over. Professionals know that and they don't have to pretend it's not. It's just like in the NBA, where defenses don't foul teams at the end of 10-point losses - as they are annoyingly prone to do in college - just to prove they're still trying.

    After watching the play, though, I don't have a problem with it. Schiano's players weren't going for Eli Manning or taking cheap shots. They were submarining hard into the line on the final snap to see if they could cause a fumble. And it nearly worked - Manning falling backward not from being hit, but from his linemen being shoved back into him.

    Granted, with only five seconds to play the chances were slim of getting the ball and throwing a 70-yard touchdown, but what if there were 10 or 20 or 40 seconds left? The Giants would have run the same kneel-down play and Tampa Bay would have done the same thing.

    I don't have a problem with that, which I find hard to believe I'm saying where Schiano is involved.

    Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickman1@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.

     


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