As expected, WVU found itself in eighth place in the Big 12 media’s preseason poll released Thursday. Two things here to discuss:
1) [REDACTED!] [Cripes, the title doesn't even work now...]
2) WVU was 127 points out of seventh place, which was only 80 points out of third place. That’s amazing and also concerning.
I wrote a little about this in Tuesday’s paper — “Placing is important, but point totals matter, too.” — because realistically the preseason polls and teams are about perception. Placing reveals the perceptions six weeks before the first game, but the point totals allow you to read between the list’s lines.
So the concern here is that not merely that WVU is in eighth place, for a second straight season, but that WVU is perceived to be alarmingly outside even the rather large middle class right now. That’s not a good thing in the third year of this deal.
Please, please spare me, “Caz, you act surprised. They’re 11-14 the past two years. They’re 6-12 in league play. What are you missing?”
Uh, nothing. That’s not what this is about. Not at all. We’re talking about something else. Something bigger. Something WVU had to get its arms around soon.
Know who else is 11-14/6-12? TCU. Know who’s 127 points better than WVU in the poll? TCU. Know who came into the Big 12 with WVU? Hint: They wear purple … crap, Kansas State does, too … and spit blood out of their eyes!
Now let’s not worry about the problem. Let’s worry about the solution. And here’s where we can share floor space: You have to win to change perceptions and realities. That’s the only fix here. The only fix.
“Uh, Spec, you said winning matters? TCU isn’t winning.”
Correct. But there’s another reason WVU (and probably, to some non-competitive extent, Iowa State and Kansas) has to win to impress in these polls. The Mountaineers are so damn far away from the rest of league, and the concentration of the voters are in Texas (See: Longhorns one point away from third place).
I strongly doubt that many of the voters know much about WVU’s recruiting, underclassmen, roster situation, so on and so forth. My hunch is many are more familiar with TCU’s.
More? WVU had one player on the preseason all-conference team, and certainly the poll reflects presumed talent. Well, Oklahoma State was the only team without a preseason all-conference player, though the Cowboys had the preseason newcomer of the year. OSU finished fifth in the poll and 142 points above WVU. I mean, that’s a big gap for teams that honestly are not and cannot be that much different right now.
Now, this is not to say the polling is wrong or that WVU deserves to be higher. I had WVU eighth and Texas Tech, Oklahoma State and Texas 4-5-6.
The point is that the Mountaineers aren’t going to get by on perception or reputation unless one or both are propped up by wins. The things that make you and your neighbor optimistic in most offseasons aren’t going resonate strongly, or at all, so far away.
Don’t mistake this as curb stomping the team. It’s not. I probably get more grief for being, uh, light-handed than heavy-handed. The truth is I just don’t put a lot of stock in the poll — Honest! I can explain! — and last year TCU was third and Baylor was fifth and I thought that was ludicrous.
Where I do give it credit is where it matters, which is perception. I don’t think you can think about the things we think about, like ticket sales and prices and the effect on road crowds and fundraising and even recruiting, and not bundle this all together. Perceptions matter in appropriate places and the perception, from here to Lubbock, from Ames to Austin, is that WVU isn’t even near where it wants to be.