An off-season of high expectations and big talk now comes to an end as the 2007 edition of the West Virginia Mountaineers takes the field against Western Michigan today at Mylan Puskar Stadium. A lofty #3 ranking is put on the line against the Broncos...a ranking that is the highest ever preseason ranking for the Mountaineers. Two Heisman hopefuls, BCS aspirations and national title hopes are also risked every time the 2007 Mountaineers take the field.
I'm not sure if I'm looking to this season with hope or dread. Obviously, the hope is that the Mountaineers can navigate through Louisville, Rutgers, South Florida and the 9 other teams on the schedule and put together the long-awaited 12-0 season and play against USC or LSU or some other undefeated team in the national title game. But there is that inkling of dread...the high ranking being put on the line every week and the chorus of nay-sayers that will haunt the 'eers and "analysts" waiting for the misstep so they can say "I told you so...".
Regardless, it is time for football and all we can do is look at the foe that visits Morgantown on this weekend. Western Michigan played in a bowl last year and is expected to win their division in the MAC this year. This team is not a pushover like James Madison. A suspect secondary will get tested by sophomore quarterback Tim Hiller. And don't expect the Broncos to rollover and let Slaton and White run non-stop down the field. This is a team that upset Virginia last year and will look to do the same to their cousins to the west this year. Expect a battle because no one is going to lay down for the #3 team in the nation. There is a lot more for Western Michigan to win in this game than WVU and that could make a difference.
At the end of the day, West Virginia has far too many weaspons for Western Michigan. And the rabid Mountaineer fans who have been salivating since the Gator Bowl will make a huge difference in this contest. Expect a close first half but the Mountaineers should pull away in the second half with experience and depth. Mountaineers roll...45-17.