MORGANTOWN - In a lot of ways, nothing really changes for West Virginia's football team now that the non-conference portion of the schedule is in the rear-view mirror.
Dana Holgorsen made that clear Saturday afternoon in the immediate wake of the Mountaineers' 31-21 win over Maryland.
"We've got a good Baylor team coming here next week,'' Holgorsen said. "But we'll prepare for them just like we did Maryland and just like we did the previous two.''
Ah, but things are about to change for the Mountaineers in a very big way. And everyone - from Holgorsen to the players and the fans - is acutely aware of that.
Eleven months after last October's decision to ditch the flailing Big East for the Big 12 Conference, West Virginia dives head-first into its new affiliation with Saturday's game against Baylor. The No. 9 Mountaineers (3-0) face the No. 25 Bears (3-0) for the first time in a noon game at Mountaineer Field that will be televised by FX.
Holgorsen has done his best to ignore the Big 12 during those 11 months, and particularly during the past two. There were other, more pertinent matters at hand, and while others insisted about focusing on the new conference, West Virginia's second-year head coach seldom broached the subject.
He claims he never did to his players, preferring not to distract them from the like of Marshall, James Madison and Maryland.
"The first time I've mentioned the Big 12 to them was a few minutes ago,'' Holgorsen said following Saturday's less-than-artistic win over the Terps. "But now the non-conference portion of the schedule is over and the rest of it's going to be conference play. And our play needs to pick up.''
Indeed, what West Virginia will face Saturday against Baylor is a microcosm of what it will see throughout the nine Big 12 games it will play over the course of the rest of the season. In many ways, it is a mirror image, as well.
For instance, if there's a team in the Big 12 that plays as fast on offense as West Virginia, it's Baylor. The team that spawned Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III last season has not slowed down in his absence. The Bears are fifth in the nation in passing offense and scoring offense and sixth in total offense.