Every summer, the Big 12 Conference, along with the rest of the Power 5 conferences, holds its Media Days prior to the start of the football season.
This year, West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen brought senior wide receiver Kevin White, redshirt junior punter Nick O’Toole and sophomore cornerback Daryl Worley along with him to Dallas, where Media Days is held.
Though a variety of questions about the upcoming season were asked, one topic that kept coming up during Holgorsen’s round-table Q&A session was how he felt the Mountaineers would be able compete in 2014 with the strength and toughness of their schedule.
According to NCAA’s strength of schedule method, which is solely based on the opponents’ wins and losses from the 2013 season, West Virginia will be entering the 2014 season with the 12th toughest schedule in the nation.
Iowa State is the only Big 12 team ranked higher than the Mountaineers at No. 7 in the country. Texas, TCU, Oklahoma State and Kansas also ranked in the top-50.
Knowing every game in 2014 needs to be taken extremely seriously, the challenge that lies ahead for this Mountaineer squad is not one to joke about.
“Oliver (Luck and I) have both talked about this, and I’m pretty excited to say that we have one of the toughest schedules in the country,” Holgorsen said in his appearance at Media Days. “The Big 12 is tough, we all understand that.
“Each and every one of the Big 12 games is going to be competitive. You have nine quality games that are going to happen. Some of the other teams in the Big 12 can say the same thing, but there are probably a couple of the teams in the Big 12 who can’t say that.”
Teams like the Cyclones and the Longhorns will also be facing some tough competition in 2014, as will most others, but for West Virginia, the level of competition being raised this season is quite a coincidence.
Think about all the Mountaineers knew they had to prove this season, even before knowing their 2014 schedule. West Virginia knew, after a couple of seasons of nothing but disappointment after disappointment from players and coaches, a lot needed to change in 2014.
The true first test to see how far, if far at all, the Mountaineers have come since their dreadful end to 2013 will be in a short eight days when WVU travels to Atlanta to play the Crimson Tide in the Georgia Dome – a challenge the Mountaineers haven’t faced in quite some time.
Alabama is also looking to rebound back to their championship days, especially after back-to-back heart-wrenching losses to end their 2013 season – a challenge that is for sure going to be difficult for the Mountaineers to overcome.
“Tricky, it’s going to be tricky,” Holgorsen said. “One of the reasons I like playing an opponent like we’re playing in the first game is (we) get out there and go toe-to-toe with them and get yourself in position to have a chance to win.
“If you do (win), guess what, you think the confidence is going to be a problem? I’ve been in that situation before where we played above our head and beat a team maybe we shouldn’t have on paper, and then all of a sudden, your confidence is probably (going to be) where you want it.”
Any way you spin it, West Virginia has challenges every week of the 2014 season. But with the level of chemistry, which is the at the highest level it’s been in years, and with the additions of more experienced, passionate coaches to this squad over the offseason, I can see West Virginia breaking even when it’s all said and done at 6-6 for the regular season, which may still be too generous. Only time will tell.