Mountaineers face tough season

MORGANTOWN – With the new College Football Playoff system replacing the Bowl Championship Series at the conclusion of the 2013 season, strength of schedule may be the lead topic of discussion for the 13-person committee that was selected to pick the four programs that will battle for the 2014 CFP national title.

West Virginia’s trio of non-conference foes includes one program that played for a national championship last season, one that has captured three out of the last five BCS titles and a program that is hoping a move to a different conference (the Big Ten) will help it become a contender for one of those coveted spots.

The Mountaineers open head coach Dana Holgorsen’s fourth season in Morgantown against their toughest opponent since they played host to The Ohio State University to begin the 1998 campaign under Hall of Fame head coach Don Nehlen.

Not even a sold-out crowd at Milan Puskar Stadium would be enough for the players in old gold and blue to overcome a Buckeye squad destined to finish among the country’s elite. The 34-17 setback was followed by four consecutive victories, but not even a 5-2 mark in the Big East would be enough to get WVU back into the BCS hunt as Nehlen’s squad was relegated to the Bowl, where it dropped a 34-31 decision to


As talented as that OSU team was, it pales in comparison to the unit that West Virginia native Nick Saban will bring to the Georgia Dome in Atlanta for the second of two games that make up the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic.

The Crimson Tide, which was a field goal return away from playing for a third straight national title, is coming off of a rare, two-game losing streak – Alabama lost to Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl – and will enter the 2014 season with a new player under center for the first time in three years.

“I didn’t think the consistency on offense was what I would’ve liked for it to have been today,” Saban said following the team’s spring game. “We did make some plays, but there wasn’t the consistency that you would like to see in the offense.”

The loss of A.J. McCarron was apparently solved when Mobile, Alabama native Jake Coker elected to leave Florida State University this summer once he completed his undergraduate degree and join the Crimson Tide for the upcoming fall.