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Give Mountaineers credit they deserve

AUSTIN, Texas - Before leaving for the Lone Star State, my radio cohort and Sunday Gazette-Mail columnist Frank Giardina advised me the Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium crowd would not be intimidating to West Virginia's football team. It certainly wouldn't be a rowdy crowd, a la Milan Puskar Stadium.

I listened. Frank has been around the block a time or three.

Then came Saturday night. Perhaps bolstered by a healthy Mountaineer contingent, WVU played in front of what San Antonio Express-News writer Mike Finger called "the largest - and almost certainly loudest" crowd in stadium history. Texas coach Mack Brown called it "by far the loudest" he'd ever heard in Austin.

For the Mountaineers, all was different. Yet WVU won. Before 101,851 in DKR.

It's an important point. It's one that helped place West Virginia at No. 5 in the latest Associated Press poll.

And it's one that, perhaps, should have lifted the Mountaineers even higher, a la the USA Today coaches poll.

See, while both South Carolina and Florida jumped WVU in the AP poll, the Mountaineers were the only of the three teams to win on the road this past Saturday. They were the only ones to defeat a highly ranked team chock-full of five-star recruits before such a hostile crowd.

My top four in the vote went like this: 1. Alabama, 2. Oregon, 3. South Carolina, 4. WVU.

I think we can all agree on Alabama at No. 1, no? Oregon, meanwhile, is a solid No. 2. If, though, you want to argue that, go for it.

The Ducks have been impressive in every outing, including a 49-0 whitewashing of the Fighting RichRods of Arizona. But Oregon's only road win was 51-26 at Washington State.

One could also argue against South Carolina. In the last three games, the Gamecocks have defeated Missouri (31-10), Kentucky (38-17) and, this past Saturday, Georgia (35-7). South Carolina's only road wins, however, were at Vanderbilt (17-13) and Kentucky.

There is, however, such a thing as an eye test. The Gamecocks passed it with flying colors in drubbing former No. 5 Georgia, wherever the game was held. Remember, too, the polls reflect the hottest teams in addition to the ones earning the most credit.

After WVU, I voted for Kansas State, which has been very impressive and has a road win at Oklahoma on its resume. Florida defeated LSU, but, again, it was in the Swamp and by just 14-6. Does anyone believe WVU couldn't defeat LSU at home this season, and probably by more than 14-6?

The Gators, however, do have earned credit, in addition to the LSU win. They've defeated both Texas A&M (20-17) and Tennessee (37-20) on the road. So it's a taster's choice between WVU and Florida.

This week, it was a tough taster's choice. UF was ranked ahead of West Virginia in the Associated Press poll by a mere five votes, 1,265-1,260.

I hear you. What about Lou Holtz's beloved Notre Dame Fighting Irish?

Well, coach Brian Kelly has done a fine job. The team has wins at Navy and Michigan State. It has back-to-back wins over Michigan (13-6) and Miami, Fla. (41-3). But sorry, Dr. Lou, I don't jump Notre Dame for winning at home over a Hurricane team that lost 52-13 to Kansas State.

Oddly, my vote mirrored that of the coaches. (Kind of gives me the willies. Usually, the coaches' poll isn't close to as accurate as the AP poll.)

The Mountaineers are No. 4 in the USA Today poll. K-State is No. 5. That's as it should be.

WVU accomplished something Saturday that wasn't as it should be. It won in front of a very large crowd that was unusually vocal.

Proving Frank wrong in that regard, but correct in another.

The Mountaineers certainly weren't intimidated.

And for that, they should be given credit.

Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, mitchvingle@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.


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