- David Ubben, College Football
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West Virginia's dealing with lower expectations than they're used to with a team that lost one of the Big 12's best passing attacks from a team that went just 7-6 a year ago.
There's some upside on the Mountaineers heading into 2013, but it's highly unlikely that anyone projects WVU to finish in the top half of the Big 12 going into the season. Nothing would change perception (and really, reality) quicker than a big early-season win.
If West Virginia goes into Oklahoma and beats the Sooners in Week 2, it'll be obvious the Mountaineers were underrated and sweating out a bowl game is unlikely. With a win on the road in Norman, the entire shape of the season changes. I couldn't agree more with the 40 percent of fans who picked the game against the Sooners as West Virginia's most important in 2013.
Twenty-six percent of fans are eyeing the game against the Big 12's other national power -- Texas -- as the Mountaineers' most important game. That'll be the best atmosphere of the season at Milan Puskar Stadium, and a strong case for No. 2, even though the game's not until Nov. 9. The Oklahoma State game could change a few minds, too, on September 28, but just 14 percent of fans voted the home game against the Cowboys as the most important.
Just 12 percent of fans voted for WVU's game against Maryland, and just 9 percent said the season finale against Iowa State, which could decide the Mountaineers' bowl fate, is the most important.
We'll learn a lot about West Virginia early in the season. By the first week of October, it's likely that WVU will have played ranked teams in three of five games. Even though football's a lot like pizza (even when it's bad, it's still pretty good), it's got to be tough to get nearly as excited for this season of Mountaineer football as fans were a year ago.
Early wins are going to prove this could be a much more memorable season of West Virginia football than anyone thought.
2dDavid M. Hale