- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 30, 2012

West Virginia made quite the impression in its Big 12 debut.

For starters, the Mountaineers certainly are going to make things interesting in their new home.

While West Virginia hardly is a geographic fit amid schools from Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, its 70-63 defeat of Baylor on Saturday demonstrated the Mountaineers might as well be kindred spirits in a league known in recent years for prodigious offensive displays.

Even potent offenses from programs such as Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas Tech haven’t seen anything quite like this.

West Virginia and Baylor eschewed almost any semblance of defense, coming within three points of the major-college football record for single-game scoring. Both teams produced 300-yard receivers. Somehow, each team wedged a couple of punts into the festivities.

Geno Smith, though, provided the most stunning numbers.

The West Virginia quarterback completed 45 of 51 for 656 yards and eight touchdowns, five of which Stedman Bailey hauled in. And with Baylor managing 700 yards of offense, Smith needed all of his scoring strikes.

Smith has 20 touchdowns and no interceptions in four games, fueling Heisman Trophy chatter as the Mountaineers head to unbeaten Texas (which earned its own wild victory Saturday at Oklahoma State) for what joins Louisiana State-Florida and Georgia-South Carolina as a weekend filled with meaningful matchups.

One thing’s for sure: Mountaineers coach Dana Holgorsen’s return to the center of Big 12 country (he was a Texas Tech assistant from 2000 to 2007 and Oklahoma State’s offensive coordinator in 2010) won’t be dull, even against one of the league’s top defenses. West Virginia could yet prove to be many things in the Big 12; boring isn’t one of them.

Weekend Risers

Stephen Morris. The Miami quarterback threw for an ACC- and school-record 566 yards, including a game-winning 62-yard touchdown to Phillip Dorsett with 19 seconds remaining, in a 44-37 defeat of N.C. State. The Hurricanes improved to 4-1 and have won three straight for the first time since 2009.

Louisiana Tech. The Bulldogs’ chances of an unbeaten season improved with a 44-38 victory at Virginia. Louisiana Tech is 4-0 and plays five of its last eight (including a rescheduled game against Texas A&M) at home. Only one of its three remaining road opponents (San Jose State) has a winning record.

Urban Meyer. Not that a guy whose resume already boasts a pair of national titles needs a boost, but Meyer’s Buckeyes scraped together a 17-16 victory at Michigan State. Ohio State isn’t eligible for the Big Ten title game, but it has to be considered the favorite in the lackluster Leaders Division after its 5-0 start.

Weekend Decliners

Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons didn’t just fall to Duke for the first time since 1999. They lost wideout Michael Campanaro, the ACC’s receptions leader, for three to four weeks with a broken right hand. Wake Forest (3-2) visits Maryland on Saturday.

Soon-to-be-independents. Idaho was waxed 66-0 at North Carolina. New Mexico State dropped a 35-14 decision to Texas-San Antonio, a second-year program. With the disintegration of the WAC, neither program has a home next year. At a combined 1-9, it’s safe to say neither is doing much to provide an appealing counterpoint to their far-flung locales.

Arkansas. Somehow, it keeps getting worse for the Razorbacks, whose fourth straight loss was a 58-10 walloping at Texas A&M. It’s difficult to remember a preseason top-10 team imploding so spectacularly and as quickly as Arkansas, which still has seven games left in a season whose promise was extinguished by mid-September.