West Virginia has arrived

Texas fans roll out welcome mat for Big 12's newest member

Updated: October 4, 2012, 1:06 AM ET
By Carter Strickland | HornsNation

AUSTIN, Texas -- They will come.

From hills and hollers, from the Gauley full of golly and out of the mountains, they will come. Blue and Gold. W and V. This week it is blue collar vs. blue blood, No. 8 West Virginia vs. No. 11 Texas under a Homer Hickam October Sky in Larry McMurtry's Texas. There is no way in the world the Big 12's newest members would miss it.

[+] EnlargeWest Virginia's Stedman Bailey
Patrick McDermott/Getty ImagesStedman Bailey and West Virginia bring an explosive offense into Austin on Saturday. It will be just the second-ever game between Texas and West Virginia.
"There will be plenty of RVs flying the West Virginia colors," said John Harkins, a native West Virginian now living in Austin. "Probably grilling whatever road kill they hit on the way down."

And that's what has Texas fans worried. West Virginia has been flattening whatever gets in its path. From Georgia in the 2006 Sugar Bowl to Oklahoma in 2008 Fiesta Bowl to Clemson in the 2011 Orange Bowl, the Mountaineers have gone through three coaches and three storied programs like a Winnebago through a wild hare.

Now here they are, in the Big 12, to stay.

That's not to say the welcome mat has not been unfurled. Texas coach Mack Brown has repeatedly back-slapped a welcome to WVU as well as TCU, telling anyone who would listen that the conference is now stronger, never mind the not-so-subtle slap across the face of Texas A&M.

He's not the only one with open arms.

"It's a friendly rivalry so far," said Sarah Walling, a Texas grad living in Huntington, W.Va.

So much so that Kirk McCracken -- no relation to Big Ern or his doppelganger, Dana Holgorsen -- has organized a get-together for alums from both school in Cincinnati to watch the game.

"They are a heck of an addition," Texas alum Ric Halden said of WVU joining the Big 12. "I just wish they would have waited a year until Geno Smith was gone."

The timing had more to do with the Aggies than the school from the Appalachians. But the time has arrived now for Texas, and WVU for that matter, to find out just what each has gotten itself into.

"There is as much of a buzz as I've ever experienced," said West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck.

That is exactly what Texas and the Big 12 sought to create as they cobbled together a conference that had been seemingly torn asunder. The history and tradition of Texas A&M on Thanksgiving at Kyle Field or DKR or in any sport at any venue won't be replaced by West Virginia. But the pining for what was lost can at least be temporarily salved with a game of this magnitude.

"It does help," said David Hoodis, who will have his inflatable Bevo staked down in the yard this weekend at the corner of Pine Terrace and Short Hills Avenue in New Jersey. "But you would like to have the traditional rivalry come back at some point in the future."

The future is now for both the programs. The winner will be seen as the favorite in the Big 12. What's more, a win for West Virginia is a rifle shot of legitimacy for a periphery program in a forgotten state. For Texas, a win brings with it a brief sigh of relief that the Longhorns might finally indeed be back. Oklahoma does loom after all.

"It's a statement game," Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro said.

That statement being that this is the new Big 12. This is what Texas can come to expect in the future. West Virginia has arrived.

And the Mountaineers have brought hellfire and brimstone & wait, better make that lighter fluid, matches and Naugahyde sectionals with them.

Carter Strickland | email

Reporter, HornsNation