"We're not going to talk about it and we're not going to change what our routine is or how we practice.''
But Holgorsen does know it's critical to be in those rankings right from the start and will refreshingly admit it. It's simple, really. The teams that are ranked before a game has been played have a huge advantage over those who are not because they have a shorter road to travel to the top if they win and a built-in buffer zone below them if they don't.
Take West Virginia, for instance.
The Mountaineers open the season with Marshall, James Madison and Maryland. None are ranked and wins over them would not be especially impressive on a national scale. But beginning at No. 11, if they win all three they are almost certain to be a Top 10 team because someone above them will stumble.
Now, imagine West Virginia was unranked. If a 3-0 start against that schedule got them anywhere, it might be into the lower fringes of the Top 25, but certainly no more.
Conversely, a loss in there would likely drop WVU what, 10 spots? That's still in the Top 25. Lose a game as an unranked team and it might take months to make up the lost ground and respect.
It's happened before, of course. Every year it happens.
Just for kicks, look at West Virginia and Virginia Tech last season. The Hokies began the season ranked No. 13 in the coaches poll, climbed to No. 10 with a 4-0 start, got thumped by Clemson 23-3 and never fell from the rankings. Tech eventually climbed to No. 5, then was thumped by Clemson again 38-10 but made it into a BCS bowl and lost to Michigan in overtime. The Hokies finished with three losses and ranked No. 17.
West Virginia, on the other hand, began the season unranked by the coaches. The Mountaineers did manage to climb to No. 11, even after losing to LSU, but back-to-back losses to Syracuse and Louisville dropped them out of the Top 25. They finished strong and climbed to No. 22, beat Clemson 70-33 in the Orange Bowl and finished No. 18.
So, to recap, the team that began the season solidly in the Top 25 lost three games, scored 13 points in two games against Clemson, lost its bowl game and finished No. 17. The team that was unranked at the start lost three games, as well, scored 70 against Clemson, won its bowl in unprecedented fashion and finished one spot lower.
It's easy to say, well, what do the rankings matter? But the coaches rankings do matter, as does the Harris Poll voted on by a hodgepodge of former coaches and football people in general. Those account for two-thirds of the BCS rating formula that will be extinct in two years, but in the interim still decides what teams reach the biggest bowls and the national championship game.
So those rankings do matter, even in August, because they set up everything that happens the rest of the season. Teams without a number beside their name to start face a harder climb and those with a digit attached have more of a cushion for the impending fall (and there will be a fall for 99 to even 100 percent of the teams, which won't go unbeaten).
It's a lousy system and one that soon will change, hopefully for the better. But as long as it's in place, it's nice every once in a while to hear someone admit that rankings matter.
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.