MORGANTOWN - The Big 12 Conference has had a Heisman Trophy finalist in 11 of the past 16 seasons.
West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith is being mentioned as a possible candidate, and the senior signal-caller has already been named the conference's pre-season Offensive Player of the Year despite the Mountaineers never having played a single down in the Big 12.
Another name creeping into the Heisman hype is Smith's teammate Tavon Austin, the player Smith endorsed for college football's top honor.
"My friends and family will call me and ask me about it," Austin said. "They will let me know what they heard on SportsCenter or things like that. I don't really pay attention to it."
Austin did admit it is an honor to be mentioned for such a lofty prize.
"I'm going to keep marching forward with the right attitude, and hopefully, my name is called at the end of the year," he said.
Speaking of the Heisman Trophy, Eric Crouch will be the analyst for the FX telecast of Saturday's game with the Thundering Herd. Crouch was honored in 2001 following a stellar career at Nebraska. He was drafted by the St. Louis Rams, who tried to convert him to wide receiver because coaches believed he was too short to play quarterback in the NFL. His colleague on the sideline, Darius Walker, is also a former NFL running back.
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Marshall was one of three teams in the country last year to have an undefeated mark in games that were decided by one score or less. Marshall was 6-0 in those games, followed by Wyoming (4-0) and Auburn (3-0).
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This will be the 12th meeting in the series between the two biggest football programs in the state, and WVU has won all of the previous 11. This is the seventh year for the Friends of Coal Bowl. In the 11 previous games, WVU has outscored Marshall 451-129.
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West Virginia is 96-29-4 in season-opening games, and the Mountaineers have won their previous eight season openers.
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The Mountaineers have 17 players from within the West Virginia borders, while Marshall lists 13 such players on its roster.
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In a recent tradition, WVU invites back some of its former football greats to serve as an honorary captain during the coin toss. Saturday's game will take on a different twist as WVU basketball coach Bob Huggins has been picked to be the honorary captain.