Column - Realignment overshadows Rutgers game
Published: Thursday, October 27, 2011
Updated: Thursday, October 27, 2011 01:10
The mood surrounding West Virginia's pending move to the Big 12 Conference is one of both excitement and jubilation. It seems that WVU has potentially found a safe, stable landing spot for the future of its athletic program.
While I am ecstatic at the prospect of hosting Oklahoma in Milan Puskar Stadium and traveling to Allen Fieldhouse to play Kansas in basketball, there is an issue more pressing at hand – Saturday's game against Rutgers.
OK, so maybe I'm playing the spoilsport at a party that is just getting started.
I hate to be "that" guy, but my dampening of the mood is for good reason – the bad taste Syracuse left in my mouth after Friday's beatdown hasn't left me yet.
It is true that fantastic, new things could be headed West Virginia's way if – or when – the Mountaineers begin competing in the Big 12 Conference. However, in the here and now, Saturday's game against Rutgers is one West Virginia can't look past.
It will be perhaps the most difficult task of the season for players to ignore press conferences, blog posts and breaking news articles concerning the school's conference future.
However, if the team wants to avoid a repeat of last weekend's performance, it is going to have to block everything out and stay hard at work on the task at hand.
Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano and the people up in Piscataway, N.J. are coming off a tough conference loss of their own.
After hearing the Mountaineers could be bolting from the Big East, don't you think extra incentive has been established for the Scarlet Knights to come up with a victory on Saturday?
Rutgers, if anything, is incensed at the notion of West Virginia jumping ship on the Big East. At the same time, they are hoping for a similar bailout from another conference in order to stabilize their own long-term future.
For now, though, the Rutgers football team is practicing harder than ever in an effort to keep its conference championship hopes alive and stick it to yet another school that looks to leave the Big East behind.
If the Syracuse game showed me anything, it was that West Virginia was not mentally prepared for a tough road environment and not yet capable of playing against a physically dominating football team.
Schematically, the coaching staff will make adjustments to compensate for the glaring shortcomings the team displayed Friday night.
What the coaching staff can't fully do, however, is get inside the minds of each player and improve individual mental focus.
For the past week, West Virginia has had to deal with watching film of a game that it never really had a chance to win.
Faulty kickoff coverage, spotty pass protection, unbalanced offensive attack and weak defensive play – all things each player has been constantly reminded of throughout this week.
If the team gets caught up projecting about the future, watch out – things could get ugly on the road for a second consecutive week.
I think my feelings are pretty consistent with the rest of the Mountaineer fan base when I say I am glad to see West Virginia's part in the conference realignment game may finally come to an end.
While I anxiously await the bright future West Virginia has both on and off the field, I am terrified at the prospect of a repeated, dismal showing on the road in conference play.
To preserve the lofty aspirations this team had coming into the season, Saturday's contest against Rutgers is absolutely, positively a must-win.
Earning the automatic BCS berth that comes with a conference title will be exponentially harder to do with two conference losses.
That's why any talk about West Virginia and the Big 12 needs to be put out of sight for these players. West Virginia simply cannot afford to look ahead to the future.
The only thing the Mountaineers need to see right now is
red: the color of Rutgers' uniforms.