Does that indicate a greater respect for the Mountaineer football program? Perhaps, but it might also reflect not enough respect for WVU's tough schedule.
First, a couple of thoughts. Like my boss Greg Hunter, I think WVU could be a better team this year and not have as good a record as last season's 9-3 mark. I believe this team is more talented, and a bit more well-rounded, than last year's surprisingly good squad. But, I also truly believe the schedule is that good, and the way it's set up might be a detriment to the youngish Mountaineers.
Ah, the schedule. It's the most important factor in a record once you get past the strenghts and weaknesses of your team. And this one is no picnic. The slate is front-loaded with difficult games. If WVU can make it through that meat-grinder, they could get on a roll at the end of the year. But it won't be easy. The Mountaineers could be 3-4 after the first two months of the season. (Editor's note to team: Feel free to post this comment on the board in the weight room for motivational purposes!)
Rather than go through the schedule game by game, I'm going to look at a few itmes and try to come up with an overall record. So, let's get to it.
First, WVU has several games they should win. There's probably universal agreement that matchups with East Carolina, Cincinnati, Rutgers, Central Florida and Temple should tilt in WVU's favor. There's always the chance of an upset, of course, so I'm not writing down an automatic 5-0. More like 4 1/2-1/2. (Save the emails, I know there are no ties. It's all part of my highly unscientific prediction system.)
Next are the underdog games. Wisconsin, Maryland and Miami for sure, and probably Virginia Tech and Pitt as well. Those last two games are at home, of course, which help. They could well be in the tossup category. And yes, I know WVU won both games last year. But, this isn't last year. The players, injury lists, momentum and just about everything else will be different, so I don't put a lot of stock in last year's results when looking at a head to head matchup.
The first three games of that group will be tough. Although a win isn't out of the question, it will be difficult. And the important thing to remember is that a loss in the opener, or at Maryland, doesn't mean WVU's season is over. By the time WVU plays Tech and Pitt, they could be ready to lay a trap or two at Mountaineer Field. But, it's tough to pick two wins over preseason top 20 teams. So, the record here, to be safe, might be 1-4.
That leaves the two swing games - BC and Syracuse. And isn't it funny that those two games come against schools that were ready to bolt the conference at the drop of Donna Shalala's broom?
Not that the defection factor will have any effect on the players. Instead, they'll be looking for a bowl game, and these two road November contests may well hold the key to the season. And while I think BC is good and the Cuse might be ready to rebound a bit, I also have the feeling that WVU will be ready for these games. My usually cautious nature, though, keeps me from picking a sweep here. So call it 1 1/2 and 1/2.
Through some serious waffling, and the help of my Commodore Vic20 (the wonder computer of the 1980s) that computes to a season record of 7-5. And I'm sticking to that, at least until August 29th.