MORGANTOWN, W.Va.“Playing in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game is a great opportunity for our football program and will be an exciting event for our fans. Alabama is one of the top teams in college football history, and it will be a tough challenge for us.”

Those were Dana Holgorsen’s words back on May 17, 2012, the announcement date for a West Virginia-Alabama showdown in Atlanta. During the 831 days since, West Virginia stands three games under .500 and the Tide is 24-3, so the tough challenge looks even tougher now that kickoff looms four days away.

Vegas barely recognizes this as a contest at all, installing the Mountaineers as 26-point underdogs. Only four FBS teams are looking up at heavier spreads this weekend, and none of them hail from the soon-to-be-autonomous power 5:

Louisiana Tech (+38) at Oklahoma
SMU (+33) at Baylor
Southern Miss (+30) at Mississippi) State
Appalachian State (+34.5) at Michigan

That last one certainly conjures up stunning memories from the Big House in 2007, and a West Virginia upset this weekend might seem just as jaw-dropping to Alabama fans who are already planning to return to the Georgia Dome in December for some real competition.

Opening games, however, can turn squirrelly—especially when the favored team has an either-or quarterback platoon in the works. Then there’s the fresh recollection of how Alabama’s aura of invincibility was punctured by Oklahoma last January. (During WVU’s wholly alarming 11-14 stretch the past two seasons, it had two very real opportunities to beat the Sooners.)

“You can throw away favorites or underdogs,” Holgorsen said Tuesday, posturing WVU as a different, deeper and more confident team than the one that lost eight games in 2013. That’s one more loss than the Tide has absorbed in its last five seasons.

For West Virginia, projected eighth in the Big 12, there might not be a faster path back to relevance than Saturday’s game, and Holgorsen recognizes the ramifications.

“We’re looking forward to the opportunity to get it on on Saturday,” he said.

To that end, some luck might be a prerequisite, but luck generally is the product of preparation. Holgorsen was asked if WVU installed a field goal-return play for Alabama, and he grinned through his reply:

“No. That would be ridiculous. Why would anybody want to do that?”

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  • winston

    William he is in a blue shirt look's like a mountaineer to me,it take time for west Virginians to warm up to new comers I am starting to like him and if he win's Saturday ill love him go Mountaineers

  • Counter Trey

    Love ya Truth but i can't buy the "my gramma could win at Bama" theory. Toledo was 6-5 in the two years before Saban showed up; after that they went 9-2. Michigan State was mediocre before Nick, he never had a losing season with MSU and four years after being hired, they went 9-2. Never had a losing season with LSU, won the National Championship. In his second year at UA they went undefeated. Etc. Why do you think the most storied program in history hired him, and your dog is still unemployed?

  • Ron- from Morgantown

    Alabama has been favored in 55 straight games dating back to the SEC championship game in 2009. In my humble opinion the spot here (26) is about ten points too much . The line opened at (23) . We agreed to sell 25000 tickets for the game and we have sold about 22000 ( counting internal purchases) . Season tickets are at 29500 . Tickets can still be purchased for Alabama for 135$ from WVU or 211$ on the secondary market . WVU is at 66 to 1 to win the Big 12 ( a 50$ wager can win you 3300$ ) . If Coker starts and plays most of the game WVU will intercept him twice . Final score Bama 34 WVU 23 .

  • Billy

    It is about time for the Metro News Staff predictions. If I remember correctly Coach Hunter finished in the basement last year. I wonder if he will repeat again this year. Also coaches hot seat has Holgy ranked #2 right behind Florida Coach Muscamp. This is Billy and I approve this post, because I do not post umpteen times like some other posters who think they are smarter than google.

  • Aaron

    For all the negatives surrounding Coach Holgorsen, including many uninformed who post on this web site, I thought he did a pretty good job today. He touched in numerous topics including the fact that this is his first year in which he has 85 scholarship players as well as being the first year that he was not required to throw a ton of freshmen to the lions on opening day, citing Dravon Henry as the lone true freshman likely to see action.

    It looks as if he as matured from past years as well as he sounded more like a head coach, speaking to all aspects of the game while sounding knowledgeable instead of an offensive guy talking about other parts of the game in which he had little to no decision making power as was the case early on.

    Combined with the uptick in recruiting, including a quality QB this year followed by 2 good recruits next year that will enroll in what is a top 25 ranked class and it appears as if WVU is on the right track.

    Time will tell though. One of my chief concerns for this team was Holgorsen's ability to manage games and make adjustments during those games. For this team to take the next step, the biggest improvement must come from the head coach. If he cannot make that improvement, WVU will fail and he should be sent packing. If he does make those improvements look for him to be the next head coach with another Power 5 conference team somewhere in the mid-west.

    Regardless it should be an entertaining season.

  • william

    Get use to losing Mountaineer fans!
    As long as Dana "The Man in Black" Holgerson is head coach it all down hill
    It is just a matter of time till this coach is FIRED!

    • sick'em

      Sister William...behave yourself now.
      This is not how u should carry yourself lady... spending afternoons chatting on the internet!!

    • Uncle Unctuous

    • Yogi Wahoo

      Gomer will u am. Do you think you could do better? I figure with your insight and pure genius you should expect a call any minute that you have been named WVU's new head coach. so if your caller ID shows O Luck pick up and do us a favor Gomer Will u am.

  • husker red

    Opurtunity to take a butt kicking..but thats why they play the game.. go big red

    • J the C

      husker red, I guess that ain't got no spell check in 'bama (nor teeth).

  • TruthTeller

    My pet dog could be as good of a coach at Alabama as Nick Saban. If you got all the best
    athletes in the nation you don't need a good coach. That is like playing poker with five aces in every hand. Put him at another small school
    and see how good Nick Saban would be. Then
    the truth would be known if he was really that good of a coach or not.

    • Aaron

      Doesn't he have a whole career approving have good he would be? Now imagine if Rich Rod had went to Alabama, and where they would be right now.

      I'm sure Tide fans are happy they passed on the first West Virginia man for the second.

      • SECorBust

        Disaster averted.

  • Mountaineer Fanatic

    Every time we play I want a victory. However, I have never wanted a victory more than this one.
    All of the football annalists constantly tell us how the underdogs could win in Georgia, South Carolina, & LSU. With Alabama you would think they are playing against themselves. They even give credence to Texas A&M beating S.C. and Ok. St. beating FSU,but they just want to know if we will be beaten by Jake or Blake.
    BEAT ALABAMA!!!!!!!! Even if it is only by (1) point.

  • Protechcpa

    A few days ago we enjoyed an article about the "obvious" weakness of starting a true freshman on the Bama offensive line and how that was an opportunity that WVU might exploit. However, that may just be a brilliant stratagem by Saban, an exercise in misdirection by drawing attention to that "weakness" and just rolling over the other side all afternoon, neutalizing the exploitation (wink, wink). Furthermore, Saban is arguably the best coach in football, so the kid will not be on the field if he is not capable. I will be glued to the TV, holding my breath for an upset, but realistically, I just hope for minimal injuries and beating the spread.

  • Monty Burns

    Yeah, a lost opportunity.

  • nashville cat

    as per holgie's press conf. , we will be overwhelmed by alabama... he's preparing us to lose big time.

    as per the excitment level for this game, he said the fans were more excited than he is.
    so, a coach is usually a reflection of the team, so with what he has said,,, prepare to see an unenthused team about playing this game , getting our tails beaten badly.
    sometimes, i just don't have any idea why dana is still at wvu, he doesn't seem to like it, or being our head coach.

    • James

      This may be why he's still there. From the WV Gazette, Dec. 21, 2013

      " According the USA Today's annual coaching salary database, Holgorsen ranks No. 24 of the 119 FBS coaches whose salaries are available, but consider that his approximate $2.6 million in pay this year was also No. 24 of the 62 schools in the five power conferences (much closer to the middle than 24th of 119) and just sixth among the 10 Big 12 coaches (actually in the bottom half).

      Holgorsen's salary, though, isn't why it would be hard to have fired him at this point. Well, actually it is, but only in terms of the larger issue with his contract that has a lot of people upset. The fact is, Holgorsen would be owed almost every penny of that remaining salary (minus $75,000 retention bonuses owed him the next four years) because there is no buyout on the school's end.

      There is a buyout on Holgorsen's side. He can escape the contract any time he wants by paying a flat $2 million. That figure never changes, whether he were to leave today or in the last year of his contract. But if the school fires him, it owes him everything he's contracted to receive. And here's the math right now: $11.3 million in salary through 2017, plus a $300,000 bonus owed him on March 1 of next year."

  • Mr. Tight

    I expect a close game, right up until the opening kickoff. Then Bama will start up the ole steam roller, and commence to send the Ears a good ole fashion behind the woodshed butt kickin'.

    This will be followed shortly by the coach yelling and screaming and throwing headsets.

    New Year, same results.

    Great hire, Oliver.

    • Sick'em

      In no way u r a mountaineer fan, and by the way we r the EERS not EARS
      with that said...
      I hope Ms. Tight is still Tight..after the EERS shock the nation and get it DONE
      Let's GOOO

  • FNP

    I don't know what is scarier, the unknown of the game or how calm Holgorsen is compare to last year.

  • DimonDave

    dimon dave yeer. I saa judee chop um!!! swapp um wit uh hi-ya haf rownd and weeve noe murcee on dem dar bammer fellers.

    Imma ruutin fer yee mounteers!
    dimon dave - ima outta yeer!

    • Kevin

      ^^^^ Shuless Hillbilli wannabe ^^^^

    • Andy

      You are an abomination to the English language. However, I hope you're right.

      • rock solid

        Where is mister man when you need him? His head must have blown off when diamond dave's post went up. Oh well, so much for wishful thinking.