MORGANTOWN-Just how hard is the 12-game regular-season schedule facing fourth-year head coach Dana Holgorsen and his Mountaineers from West Virginia University?
Depending on which analyst you read, the old gold and blue possesses the No. 2 to No. 7-toughest schedule in NCAA D-I football.
According to the latest press release by the Big 12 Conference, three of the four schools that will play three opponents in 2014 that participated in last season's BCS bowls are Kansas State, Oklahoma State and WVU.
All three will face Big 12 rivals Baylor and Oklahoma at some point during the season while K-State will take on SEC champion Auburn, OSU will face defending national champion Florida State and the Mountaineers will open the season by taking on perennial national-championship contender Alabama in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
"It is the type of schedule a school needs to play if it wants to have any shot at being selected to play in the new college football playoffs," WVU Director of Athletics Oliver Luck explained during his visit to Parkersburg as a part of the MAC's Coaches Caravan back in May. "Strength of schedule will definitely be one of the major things the committee will take into consideration as it attempts to pick the four teams that will play for the national title."
One of those 13 members that will make up the committee will be Luck.
"It's going to be a blast,": he said. "I'm on the committee, so obviously there's a lot of work that's going to come my way - particularly in October when the first football poll is to be released the last weekend of the month."
And fans should not expect future WVU football schedules to be any less challenging.
Luck has already secured a home-and-home series with longtime rival Virginia Tech (2021-22) as well as with former rival Penn State (2023-24), and the Mountaineers are slated to face BYU at a neutral site to open the 2016 campaign.
Contests against Maryland and East Carolina will continue to dot future schedules and the occassional "cupcake" game against a FSC member will show up from time to time. But those games could disappear quickly if the 10-member Big 12 elects that it must expand in order to keep up with its "Power 5" rivals-the Big Ten, Pac-12, SEC and ACC.
"We will continue to search for games that will give our fans something to look forward to watching and give our program the best chance to succeed - and hopefully enter into the discussion surrounding the national-championship playoffs."
A playoff that may expand faster than the Big 12.
"As soon as it was announced that only four teams would be selected, you had people clammering for six, eight and even 16," said Luck, "I'm sure there are going to be fan bases that will be upset because their favorite team is ranked fifth or sixth when they believe they should be ranked no lower than third or fourth.
"I just keep telling them to 'calm down' and let's see how four works. That's the system right now and let's make sure it works. We can, and will, talk about that (expansion) down the road."