A Little Know-Howe: Welcome to National Stage WVU
You have been waiting years for this. An undefeated West Virginia at home against a good team, a sold out Mountaineer Field, 3:30 pm start time (time to tailgate, but also time to make it home at a decent hour) and people around the country paying attention.
Welcome back to the national stage, West Virginia football. I mean that from a relevance standpoint. Sure, WVU has had some nice wins over the past five years. But, not since the first five games of the 2012 season has the WVU football team been talked about like it was this week.
College football playoff sleeper pick? Potential Big 12 champion? Best hope for the Big 12? All things that have been said about the team this week from the national media.
How will West Virginia handle the praise?
There's no doubt Dana Holgorsen has addressed it with the team. He's told them to tune it out, don't pay attention. He's had that talk, just as hundreds of others have had with their teams over the years.
Sometimes it sticks. Sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes teams use the recognition to their benefit and channel it into a great game. It gives them some swagger if I may borrow a phrase from the kids. Sometimes it makes a team overconfident which leads to a poor performance.
How this team responds to all of the attention is one of the keys to the game this week.
How will the crowd respond to this big moment? Just as a crowd can raise a team's level of play, so too can it transfer its collective angst to the players.
See Pitt - West Virginia, December 2007. When Pat McAfee's early field goal attempt hit the upright, the gasp in the stadium was loud. The crowd was tight from that moment on. I don't have to tell you how the team played during that game.
I'm not suggesting this game is on par with the magnitude of that one. Nor do I think the fans will have any tightness before or during this one. I'm simply pointing out that the crowd's demeanor can affect players both positively and negatively.
I think today we will have one of those all-out, loud crowds that give West Virginia a true home field advantage.
Enjoy today. Don't worry too much about what lies ahead for West Virginia. We'll get to those games in due time.
Today, soak in the moment. West Virginia football is playing a big, important game on the national stage. Live it up.
One statistic that should make you optimistic for a WVU win: Since 2000, WVU is 104-13 when scoring 30 or more points in a contest. TCU is giving up an average of 30 points per game this season.
One statistic that should concern you: TCU has won 12 of its last 13 games following an open week under Gary Patterson.
Editor's Note: Top photo shows WVU Coach Dana Holgerson hyping his team up, while bottom photo is one the Mountaineers don't want to see again - TCU Coach Gary Patterson celebrates leaving the field in Morgantown in 2014 after his team's 31-30 win. Photos by Ben Queen of www.benqueenphotography.com.