WVU will play LSU at 8 pm on Saturday night at Mountaineer Field.
It's a big game in its own right, considering the involvement of the #2 and #16 ranked teams in the country. ABC will be there. College GameDay will be there. Even America's Got Talent winner Landau Murphy will be belting out the anthem. This we know.
But that doesn't tell the whole story. You see, conference realignment is the constant and ominous cloud that has loomed over Mountaineer athletics for the past few months. With Pitt and Syracuse finally bolting the Big East, the stark reality of the situation is starting to settle in across the Mountain State. This is a program that has so much of the state's pride and identity wrapped into it. The thought of West Virginia University not having a proper home for its football and basketball teams is almost too much to bear. It would be devastating. That's what has made this week so difficult for so many. The added wrinkle of LSU visiting town -- an SEC school, for crying out loud -- smacks you in the face despite all best efforts to ignore.
This feels like an audition. Not just for WVU and the SEC, but for the entire state of West Virginia to be finally recognized as a legitimate college football contender. The Sugar Bowl felt like that, too. So did the Fiesta Bowl. Sure, a win against LSU isn't going to result in a 50 yard line invitation as the clock strikes zeros, but it sure seems that way.
It's ridiculous to consider one game as an audition for decades of conference affiliation (well, based on recent experience, maybe not quite decades). Would a one point win finally convince an entire region and conference that we're "SEC material?" Likely not. But that's where we stand -- using one national TV appearance against a top-ranked opponent to seal our seat at the table once and for all. Rightly where we belong.
As fans -- if you're anything like me -- you're almost beside yourself with excitement for Saturday. This is our chance to cement the fact that WVU football is a real and truly awesome thing. As fans, we're willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen.
"Maybe if I yell loud enough, the SEC will hear me."
It's a thought that has run through my head more than once this week. Silly? Of course. But when 59,999 other fans are thinking the same thing on Saturday, my guess is that you won't be able to hear yourself think anymore. And as idealistic as it sounds, if the team, coaches and fans all rise to this momentous occasion, we know as Mountaineers that anything is possible.