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The Countdown

A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

Need to Know

Excitement is Back. Hide Your Couch.

Local residents have been asked to remove couches and other flammable objects from their front porches and lawns, so you know what time it is: it’s a marquee weekend in Morgantown, so get your fire extinguishers ready. That would be win or lose, as it doesn’t really matter. Morgantown’s going to explode either way, whether the Mountaineers upset L.S.U. or get steamrolled by the nation’s best defense: it’ll be louder and rowdier if the Mountaineers come out on top, but the program is hungry for this taste of national exposure. This is exposure for the right reasons: all positive — minus the fire warnings — and not negative, and it had been reversed for much of the summer.

If not the last three-plus years. With hindsight, we can acknowledge the fact that there was little positive about West Virginia from Jan. 3, 2008 through the start of this season: Jan. 3 is the day after Bill Stewart led the Mountaineers to an surprising Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma, which led West Virginia to name him as Rich Rodriguez’s permanent replacement.

There’s no point rehashing the past — though it’s clear that nothing’s permanent, especially in coaching. Well, let’s rehash the recent past: Stewart has Dana Holgorsen foisted upon him as the offensive coordinator and head-coach-in-waiting; Stewart balks, whines, complains, shoots disparaging comments about his new assistant to a local reporter; Holgorsen is embarrassed; it comes out that Stewart is the source of the leaks; voila, Holgorsen’s tenure begins a bit ahead of schedule.

It’s the best thing that could have happened to this program. This year, had Stewart remained the head coach, might very well have been a complete disaster: infighting on the staff, public and private bickering, an uncomfortable environment — all would have derailed W.V.U. in 2011 and perhaps beyond, poisoning Holgorsen’s job before it even started.

Now? So long, Bill. The lone fear was that Holgorsen wasn’t ready; the thought was, prior to the change, that Holgorsen would have learned a bit about leading an entire team, not just an offense, by serving under Stewart. Holgorsen needed a year under Bill Stewart about as much as West Virginia needed another year under Bill Stewart: not at all.

West Virginia has been spectacular, disappointing and surprising thus far, often in the same game. That’s not surprising — not in the least, actually. Forget that the coaches have changed; the whole offensive philosophy has changed, drastically so, and there will be growing pains.

The Mountaineers didn’t impress in a season-opening win over Marshall. The Mountaineers trailed Norfolk State at halftime, 12-10, but scored 45 unanswered points in the season half. There’s your surprising, disappointing and spectacular rolled into one. Against Maryland last Saturday, West Virginia stormed out to a 34-10 third quarter lead but barely held on for a 37-31 win.

So: 3-0, but with a few faults. Not perfect, in other words. But exciting — my goodness, is West Virginia exciting. We’re talking excitement not seen in Morgantown since Rodriguez, and it’s excitement based not off what the Mountaineers have done thus far but what the Mountaineers have the possibility of achieving in the future.

Thus the fire warnings. Those are for Saturday, but they should remain in place for the rest of 2011, into 2012 and beyond. Can the Mountaineers win against L.S.U., whether in Morgantown or otherwise? I wouldn’t think so — not yet, when the Mountaineers are four weeks into Holgorsen’s system. In the future? The B.C.S. is calling, though only if W.V.U. remains in the Big East, not to get off on an unrelated tangent.

Saturday? There will be fire, win or lose: “We know we’re going to have fires,” said Morgantown fire chief Mark Carvasos. “But they aren’t going to be bad.”

Well, maybe. Unless West Virginia wins; if West Virginia wins, Morgantown might go up in flames. So hide your couches, just to be safe, and stow away anything that might also burn with the help of lighter fluid and matches — so why don’t you just put everything you own in the garage, and lock it tight. Win or lose, it’s clear that the excitement is back in Morgantown.

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  1. philip says:

    as ever, well-structured and well-articulated. i’m glad i’m not the only one feeling like this.

  2. schedule nit says:

    So, why do they burn couches again? And why do they have couches on their porches?

  3. Lee says:

    LSU 28-13

  4. SixWinSeason says:

    To sit in silly. They burn them because… well, it’s better than burning other things. Better than in Columbus, where people rioted the last time they lost to Michigan

  5. [{wh(O?}re!]gon)E says:

    I think they are the east coast branch of the eugene faction… they burn couches down there as well.

    Also, to sixwin’s: use puctuation. Or, just let me know if there REALLY is a substance known as “silly”; i wanna make sure i don’t sit in it.

  6. Grammar Police says:

    To [{who(O?)re!]gon)E – your semicolon is outside the closing quotation mark. I am impressed!

    However, you failed to put a space after your colon. ;(

  7. philip says:

    in response to schedule nit: here’s a link from someone who remembers why couches are burned.


    (and couches are on porches so you’ll have someplace to sit and drink at your off-campus rat trap during block parties.)

  8. schedule nit says:

    I know I’m “schedule nit”, not “grammar nit”, but that would be a misuse of a semicolon. Should be a comma and no quotes.

    And thanks for the link.

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