Just another Saturday?
MORGANTOWN - OK, so this is the week West Virginia football fans have looked forward to with anticipation and downright fervor for 11 months.
On Saturday, Baylor comes to Morgantown, officially beginning the Mountaineers' trip into Big 12 football.
Dana Holgorsen and his staff? Well, they hope it's no different than preparing for Marshall or Maryland or even James Madison. In fact, the primary goal for the Mountaineers this week is to make it just that - no different.
"Ignore all the outside and just focus on eliminating as many distractions as we possibly can,'' Holgorsen said. "Then we can get to the point where we're just doing our job.''
From a purely football perspective, that actually shouldn't be too hard. The practice schedule won't change, nor will what the team does during those practices or film sessions or anything else.
But in a way, Holgorsen hopes this week actually is different than some of the others his team has gone through early in the season. If there's a positive to having such a pivotal game that everyone outside the Puskar Center is talking about, it's that if nothing else it should amp up the enthusiasm inside those walls, as well.
"We're looking forward to a very fun, festive atmosphere this Saturday,'' Holgorsen said. "I thought the energy and the excitement level of last week was very average, not only from a player standpoint but from a coaches standpoint and from an atmosphere standpoint. I expect that to be totally different this week, and that's something we're looking forward to. I think our players will respond.''
Still, the focus has to be on keeping things as normal as possible during the week leading up to Saturday's noon game at Mountaineer Field, which will be televised by FX.
"We spent a good portion of [Sunday] just talking about that,'' Holgorsen said. "It's the same thing we've been telling them for quite some time, which is that we're going to do our best to ignore the outside and just worry about what we're doing on the inside - just getting into a routine and preparing to win a game and trying to eliminate as many distractions as we possibly can.''
The bottom line, really, is that this is nothing all that new. Yes, it's the first Big 12 game and it comes against an opponent the Mountaineers have never played. That in itself is enough to ratchet up the enthusiasm.
But is it really much different than facing LSU on a Saturday night at home or Clemson in the Orange Bowl?
"Obviously there's been a lot of excitement over joining the Big 12 since it happened a year ago and it's finally here,'' Holgorsen said. "There hasn't been a Big 12 game yet. There hasn't been a Big 12 preparation yet. This is going to be the first one. So there's a lot of anticipation not only within the state of West Virginia, but across the country with having West Virginia as part of the Big 12, as well.
"So there will be a lot of eyes on us, which we've had that situation before. We've got a lot of experienced kids, we've got a program that's pretty established and used to winning and used to being in the national spotlight. So I don't think it will take away from any of our preparation and I don't think we'll allow it to become a distraction. I mean, ultimately we just have to get to work. We've got 20 hours a week to deal with our kids when it comes to getting ready for a football game, which is exactly what we'll do.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.