Yeesh, is the honeymoon over already?
Is the love slowly wilting?
Because it sure seems like somebody in the Big 12, somebody who inputs data that helps spit out the conference schedules, sure doesn’t like West Virginia.
After being courted and showered with affection to join the Big 12, West Virginia enters its fourth season in the conference being handed what is arguably the most difficult October schedule of any team in the league and maybe even any team in the entire country.
That’s not love.
Wow, when did that relationship go south?
We’re kidding, of course. Hundreds of factors go into the eventual finished product known as the Big 12 Conference schedule, so there is no bias. Nonetheless, the Mountaineers got the gauntlet when it comes to October scheduling – four games in five weeks against three Top 25 teams, two of them in the top five.
After opening September against Georgia Southern, Liberty and a rising, but beatable, Maryland team – a September schedule that does include a bye week – WVU will enter conference play with games against the most difficult schedule imaginable.
October 3 at Oklahoma.
October 10 vs. Oklahoma State.
October 17 at Baylor.
Oct. 24, Bye Week.
October 29 at TCU.
What does West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen have to say about that? Smartly, not much.
“Don’t talk about it,” Holgorsen told ESPN. “We really haven’t talked about anything but ourselves. Everybody knows who is on our schedule, but it’s not something that we’re going to talk about very much. … Everybody that plays in the Big 12 has stretches like that.
Last year looking at it, we had at Texas Tech, Baylor, at Oklahoma State, TCU … that’s pretty damn tough too. We’ve got nine Big 12 games and when you play them and where you play them I don’t think is relevant. At the end of the year everybody is going to have a crack at everybody else.”
True, but having them back-to-back-to-back-to-back is daunting, to say the least. Yet this is a West Virginia team with high expectations this year that returns talent and experience at most every spot except for quarterback and wide receiver, though the QB was thrown into the fire late last season and did well.
Skyler Howard impressed late in the season when he took over the starting role when Clint Trickett went down. Howard started the regular-season finale and beat Iowa State on the road with a 285-yard, three-touchdown performance, and then threw for 346 yards in a 45-37 shootout loss to Texas A&M in the Liberty Bowl.
“I think moving to the next level kind of made me a little bit antsy,” Howard told WDBJ television in Morgantown. “I’m getting under control. That is one thing I am focusing on right now. I want to stay calm in the pocket and focus on my reads. It’s getting better every day.”
If Howard can play consistent football, if he can click with his new wide receivers and take some of the pressure off the running game, this is a difficult team to beat, especially with 10 starters back on defense. If it’s tight, the Mountaineers also have a kicker who hit 16 field goals of 40 or more yards last year, five of them from 50 yards or more.
But right now all we have our dreams and paper.
In their minds, WVU can contend for the Big 12 title and that’s a good thing. A great thing, really.
On paper, however, that October schedule is still a monster.