A column by Bob Hertzel for The Times West Virginian
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Did Oliver Luck throw his football coach Dana Holgorsen a life preserver or an anchor when he put together one of the most difficult schedules in modern West Virginia history that begins at 3:30 p.m. this Saturday with the Mountaineers a three- to four-touchdown underdog to No. 2 Alabama?
The NCAA rates the schedule Holgorsen and his Mountaineers must negotiate as they try to erase the memory of 14 losses in the last 20 games as the 12th most difficult in college football this year, but you might have a hard time convincing the team that has to go out and play those games that 11 schools are playing tougher schedules.
Certainly, if the team is overwhelmed by the schedule, Holgorsen might be dragged under, unless he either has put together a team capable of staying afloat or even structuring a winning season out of it.
Surprisingly, Holgorsen welcomes the challenge, even if his schedule does have him playing two of the nation’s top three teams according to the Sagarin ratings in the first three games (No. 2 Alabama and No. 3 Oklahoma), three of the top 10 (add No. 9 Baylor), five of the top 20 (No. 16 Kansas State and No. 19 Oklahoma State) and then Texas, who just misses a top 20 ranking at No. 21.
Going further there are eight of the top 50 with Texas Tech at No. 34 and TCU at No. 39.
They will go against that with a team that Sagarin ranks No. 55 in the country … and while Maryland is actually ranked behind them at No. 59, you find it difficult to find too many people who believe the Maryland team that beat WVU, 37-0, last year isn’t a top 50 team.
Is this schedule too top-heavy? Is it built for failure?
Or is it the kind of schedule that presents a challenge that a coach like Holgorsen welcomes and that his fan base clamors to see?
“I’m in favor of playing as many non-conference, neutral site, big-time games as we can each and every year,” Holgorsen said this year at the Big 12 media day. “Oliver [Luck] and I have both talked about this. I’m pretty excited to say that we have one of the toughest schedules in the country…