I love when Big 12 teams face SEC opponents. I thoroughly enjoyed watching Texas destroy Georgia in this past season’s Sugar Bowl. I rooted for Oklahoma in the College Football Playoff against Alabama. I would much rather see Bill Self’s Kansas Jayhawks come out on top than Calipari’s Wildcats.
Conference pride is almost vital in college athletics, especially when your favorite team suffers as many heartbreaks as ours has. It’s also more collective. We can root for multiple teams in the same conference instead of just one.
Now, don’t get me wrong, there are circumstance that make it very difficult to get behind fellow conference mates, such as deep-rooted rivalries. I don’t think any West Virginia fans cheered for fellow Big East member Pitt to win the 2008 Sun Bowl against Pac-12 opponent Oregon State (which OSU won 3-0), nor any other bowl game the Panthers played in.
That being said, West Virginia isn’t in the Big East with Pitt anymore. They’re in a conference now that features teams which are all geographically distant. Think about it. Who is our rival in the Big 12? Some might say Texas. While I love flashing a horns down every year, the 1,400 mile separation just isn’t the same as a 70 mile trip up north.
Others might say Oklahoma is our rival now. While I want desperately to knock off the Sooners, especially since we’ve come so close on two different occasions (in football), it’s hard to consider a team we’re winless against (since joining the conference) a rival.
West Virginia has been in the Big 12 for seven seasons now. If I had to choose a conference rival in both basketball and football, I would say Kansas for the former and Texas for the latter.
I’ve disliked the Southeastern Conference for some time now. In football, their teams seem to get the most hype, most media attention and seemingly most favoritism from bowl committees. The Big 12 is 35-47 all-time against SEC opponents in football. Even still, the recent trend seems to point in the Big 12’s favor with teams combining for a 9-7 record against the SEC in the last three seasons. West Virginia is 16-20-1 all-time against SEC teams, but is 2-2 against them since joining the Big 12 (destroying Tennessee last season and Missouri in 2016; while falling just short against Alabama and Texas A&M in 2014).
In basketball, the SEC generally takes a backseat to other, stronger conferences like the ACC and Big 12. Recently, the best teams have been Tennessee, LSU and Kentucky. Since the Big 12/SEC Challenge began in 2013, the Big 12 is 35-25, boasting a 4-1-1 collective record in the tournament. Sadly, WVU has been the lowest performing team for the Big 12 with just a 1-5 record in the challenge. Even still, attendance at WVU Coliseum for these games has risen steadily since first welcoming the LSU Tigers in 2014. ESPN College Gameday made the trip to Morgantown in January 2018 when the Kentucky Wildcats came to town.
I hope the Big 12 continues to excel against the SEC and other conferences. West Virginia’s move to the conference has been beneficial, increasing both competition and national exposure. It can also help WVU when conference teams win non-conference games because it may increase strength of schedule.