Rugged schedule for WVU

When the first official preseason college football poll recently was released, I couldn’t help but notice how many West Virginia University opponents were ranked in the top 25 of the USA Today Coaches Poll.

Not only will the Mountaineers open the season against No. 2 Alabama, but once Big 12 play gets under way, WVU’s opponents will include No. 3 Oklahoma, No. 10 Baylor, No. 21 Kansas State and No. 24 Texas.

If you want to extend the poll even further, Oklahoma State would come in at No. 30.

So half of West Virginia’s games will be against teams who will begin the season in the top 30.

Welcome to life in the Big 12 Conference, where there are few if any gimmes as WVU found out last year vs. Kansas and Iowa State.

One could make the argument this is one of the most difficult schedules WVU ever has faced.

It’s certainly not the type of schedule conducive to improving upon last year’s 4-8 record, including losses in six of the Mountaineers’ final seven games.

In addition to Alabama -which is a 28-point favorite over the Mountaineers in the Chik-fil-A Kickoff Classic – West Virginia’s other non-conference opponents are Maryland, who destroyed the Mountaineers, 37-0, in the renewal of their series last year, and Towson, which went 13-3 and advanced to the FBS national championship game last season.

Throw in Big 12 games against Texas (a 13-point favorite over WVU), Oklahoma State (a 19-point favorite over the Mountaineers), Baylor (against who WVU is a 16-point underdog), Texas Tech (a 10-point choice over West Virginia), Oklahoma (who is favored over WVU by 17) and Kansas State (a 7-point choice in Morgantown) and you can make the case WVU will have a difficult time equalling last year’s 4-8 record.

And should that be the scenario that unfolds, it’s difficult to see how coach Dana Holgorsen -who is ranked No. 2 among college coaches on the hot seat -can survive.

Although he does still seem to have the support – at least for now – of the man who counts the most, athletics director Oliver Luck.

Those looking to make a case for WVU to improve upon last year’s finish can point to a strong recruiting class, depth at running back and more continuity in the coaching staff, especially on the defensive side of the ball.

Those questioning whether West Virginia will be improved point to a shaky quarterback situation and want to see improvement in the defense rather than just hearing that’s going to happen.

This looks like a make-or-break year in Morgantown, where season ticket sales are down.

West Virginia, just two seasons removed from a 70-point explosion in winning the Orange Bowl, has gone from 10 to 7 to 4 wins under Holgorsen, which obviously is a disturbing trend.

Contact Dave Poe at dpoe@newsandsentinel.com