West Virginia University's football team isn't slated to open Big 12 play until the final Saturday in September, but that hasn't slowed down the excitement building around Dana Holgorsen's second Mountaineer squad as it prepares to open Spring Drills next month.
"It (joining the Big 12) makes this spring even more important to us seniors," explained former Parkersburg standout Josh Jenkins, who missed all of last season with a knee injury. "The fans are excited and we (the players) are excited."
But will excitement be enough for the old gold and blue to overcome the powers that make up its newest conference rivals?
If the past is any indication, then fans should expect to see a Mountaineer team playing with the kind of chip on its shoulder that it took to Miami, Fla., in January when it destroyed an over-hyped Clemson squad, 70-33.
"We understand what belonging to the Big 12 will mean to our program," said senior fullback Matt Lindamood.
"But, as players, it doesn't really matter what conference we are in as long as we get the chance to play football."
Early preseason polls already have as many as six of the 10 members of the Big 12 ranked among the country's Top 25 with Oklahoma and its Heisman Trophy candidate Landry Jones leading the pack at No. 7.
Making its first visit to Morgantown will be a Baylor Bears' squad that will be without the services of Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III, who elected to put his name into the NFL draft and forego his senior season.
Life gets no easier, however, as WVU will play back-to-back games at Texas (Oct. 6) and Texas Tech (Oct. 13) before playing back-to-back home contests against Kansas State (Oct. 20) and TCU (Nov. 3).
The remainder of the schedule has the Mountaineers traveling to Holgorsen's old stomping place, Oklahoma State, on Nov. 10, then returning home against preseason conference favorite Oklahoma, who pays a visit to the friendly confides of Mountaineer Field on Nov. 17.
Rounding out the 9-game slate of conference games will be a trip to Iowa State on Nov. 24 and a regular season conclusion in Morgantown when Kansas comes to town on Dec. 1.
"I am excited about this year's schedule, especially since we will be competing in the Big 12," said Holgorsen. "I am familiar with the conference and know the challenges that are ahead of us.
"Mixing our conference schedule with Maryland, Marshall and James Madison, the offseason becomes even more important to our preparations."
An offseason that has already had its ups and downs with the departure of longtime defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel and two of is assistants.
While the lack of urgency to fill those positions has been a constant topic on every message board in the Mountain State, one has to believe that Holgorsen, and Director of Athletics Oliver Luck, have their attentions on those replacements, but, just like with WVU's announcement that it was leaving the Big East, they will only make those announcements at the most advantageous time.
Contact Jim Butta at firstname.lastname@example.org