Oklahoma State, West Virginia prove Big 12 may be deeper than expected

Photo by Emily DeShazer | The Collegian West Virginia quarterback Clint Trickett runs to the side while looking to throw at Bill Snyder Family Stadium on October 26, 2013.

For the better part of the last eight months, conversation circled around who would compete with Baylor and Oklahoma for the Big 12 title. Many national pundits saw the other eight schools chasing these top 10 programs.

Kansas State? Defensive questions. TCU? Not enough offense. Texas and Texas Tech? Too many unknowns.

While these programs fought for No. 3 through No. 6 in projected standings, Oklahoma State and West Virginia were pushed aside largely due to what appeared to be impossible season openers and inexperience.

Will these programs be in line for a Big 12 Championship at the end of November? No. But as someone who once saw these games as almost-guaranteed victories for Bill Snyder and company, I’ll be more than happy to step to the front of the line to admit my mistake.

In terms of pure athleticism and competition, these two discounted programs have seen it in its truest form while playing against the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Florida State Seminoles.

Whether it’s the nearly superhuman ability of Jameis Winston to manage the Florida State offense or Nick Saban’s prowess in coaching a football team, it’s just about as good as it gets.

“It’s frustrating because you play against a really good team and you are in position in the fourth quarter to be able to win the game and you don’t have these opportunities very often,” Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia head coach, said of his team’s efforts after Saturday’s loss. “We were in a very similar situation last year when we played Oklahoma in Norman, Oklahoma, and we were in that game, had a chance to win it and we didn’t.”

While Holgorsen made a valid reference to last season’s 16-7 loss in Norman, a much more poised Clint Trickett in the pocket gives the Mountaineers a more efficient option at quarterback position than a year ago.

When discussing the conference’s elite or better than average quarterbacks, Oklahoma State’s J.W. Walsh and Trickett were far from the first names that came to mind.

With Baylor’s Bryce Petty, Oklahoma’s Trevor Knight and K-State’s Jake Waters manning the top three spots, the Cowboys’ and Mountaineers’ signal-callers got a swift kick to the sidelines.

How did Trickett fare against arguably the nation’s best defense? A strong showing of 29 completions, 365 passing yards and a touchdown.

Credit goes to Holgorsen and Cowboys’ head coach Mike Gundy for preparing their teams to face the top two ranked teams in the country.

While Walsh didn’t fair quite as well statistically, the Cowboys’ starting quarterback was gutsy in his efforts against the defending national champions by rushing for two scores.

Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher was complimentary of the Cowboys’ efforts after the near monumental upset.

“A lot of credit to Oklahoma State,” Fisher said. “I thought they did a heck of a job. I told you Mike [Gundy] has a got a good football team, and he’s a heck of a football coach. He has done a great job for a long time.”

Overreacting over one week of games can be dangerous, but when performances of this caliber come against elite competition, it’s an excellent indicator of what’s ahead.

Baylor, who claimed last year’s Big 12 championship title and is regarded as the conference favorite, will play at Texas on Oct. 4, at West Virginia on Oct. 18, at Oklahoma on Nov. 8 and will host Kansas State on Dec. 6.

After watching what the conference had to offer in its 2014-15 opening weekend, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to predict the Big 12 order of finish.

Adam Suderman is a senior in mass communications. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.