Welcome to big game weekend.
That’s precisely what this is for the state of West Virginia’s only two FBS programs.
Marshall University gets it started with a 6:30 p.m. game on Friday against Florida Atlantic in FAU Stadium at Boca Raton, Florida. Next, West Virginia University takes on fifth-ranked and undefeated (6-0) Oklahoma at noon Saturday in Memorial Stadium at Norman, Oklahoma.
Both Mountain State schools are underdogs.
FAU is a 5½-point favorite over Marshall, while the Sooners are overwhelming 34-point favorites over the Mountaineers.
Yet this still is a very big game for both schools.
For WVU, it’s an opportunity to do the one thing the Mountaineers never have accomplished. Namely, defeat Oklahoma. The Sooners are the only Big 12 Conference member that WVU never has beaten.
It’s all about living up to expectations. When the Conference USA media tabbed Marshall as the preseason favorite to win the East Division it put the onus — not to mention the weight — right on the Herd’s shoulders.
Now that Marshall already has one East Division loss and trails Western Kentucky (3-0) and Florida Atlantic (2-0), the Herd obviously can’t afford another defeat.
Marshall is staring down that barrel.
“I told them last night ... they are smart guys,” said MU coach Doc Holliday, “they know what’s out there. I don’t want them to think about anything other than trying to win one more game. Let’s forget about all that other stuff and let’s just get prepared and let’s get on a plane and let’s go to FAU and try to be 1-0 again — to win that game.”
MU’s players obviously listened to Holliday because they are sold on that premise.
“I feel like this team is more about controlling what we are able to control,” said starting quarterback Isaiah Green. “I feel like everybody is focusing in and locking in on being 1-0 every week. And just see how it plays out.
“We just have to take it game-by-game. The conference is still wide open. All we have to do is continue to win and see where we are when the time comes.”
As for WVU, first-year head coach Neal Brown is more about the “big picture” than just Oklahoma.
“We’ve just got to get better,” he said. “We’re playing Oklahoma and we’re going to prepare for Oklahoma, but we’ve just got to get better in all three phases [offense, defense and special teams]. And that’s really kind of been my mindset this entire year.
“We’ve just got to get better.
“We’ve done some really good things these last two weeks. We’ve been able to hang around, hang around and hang around. Then, when we go into the fourth quarter with a chance to win and we just haven’t been able to do the things from a coaching perspective or a playing perspective that are necessary to win versus a quality opponent.
“And, so, my mindset and what I presented to the team [on Monday] is we’ve just got to get better. It so happens that we’re to get better preparing for Oklahoma this week.”
Talking about having a lot on your plate.
WVU will be facing the No. 1 offense in the country. Besides averaging 50.2 points and 621.7 yards total offense, the Sooners average 9.6 yards per play.
“Looks like something off Madden,” quipped Brown.
Indeed, it does.
But that shows just how big this weekend is.