West Virginia is getting plenty of respect this preseason, picked to finish second in the Big 12 behind the leadership of the conference's preseason offensive player of the year, quarterback Geno Smith.
But for WVU coach Dana Holgorsen, an appearance at Big 12 media days in Dallas on Tuesday was a welcome reminder that all the talk in advance of the Mountaineers' first season in their new conference is nearing an end and the focus can finally shift towards football itself.
--Almost immediately, Holgorsen was asked about what the Big 12 should expect from Morgantown and the West Virginia program. His answer included a subtle dig at the Big East.
"The one thing that I've been going around the state for the last couple of months telling the people of West Virginia is what we're getting into is the same thing we got at home," Holgorsen said. "And that didn't necessarily exist in the conference that we were in last year.
"It means a lot. The culture is there. The support's there. The fan base is there. We're going to fill up our stadium. Our team is used to winning, and that exists at the other nine universities in the Big 12 as well. So the best way I can describe it to the people of West Virginia and the best way I can describe it to the Big 12, and everybody else, is what exists in the Big 12 exists in Morgantown, West Virginia, as well."
--Much as it was last fall when the Mountaineers were announced as the newest member of the Big 12, the topic of travel and geography came up. WVU is almost 875 miles away from its closest Big 12 neighbor, Iowa State -- nearly a 15-hour drive from Morgantown to Ames.
For fans, Holgorsen acknowledged, travel to some road games may be more problematic in the Big 12 than it was in the Big East. But for the teams themselves, the difference should be minor, he insisted.
"Last year it didn't matter if we were getting on a plane and flying one hour and getting on a plane and flying two hours to Tampa, Florida," Holgorsen said. "So basically the road games are going to be an airplane ride. So you're going to jump on a plane and fly a couple of hours no matter where you go. From there it's just all about routine. So from a travel standpoint, for us, anyway, I don't view it as being a big deal."
--The quality of quarterback play in the Big 12 has been a topic of conversation throughout the preseason. WVU's Smith is one of five signal-callers from the league on the Davey O'Brien Award watch list.
Holgorsen, a longtime offensive coordinator who made a successful transition to being a head coach last season, was asked about the difficulty of preparing to try to slow down those high-level QBs.
"Sounds like it's been the same way in the Big 12 for about a decade now," he said. "There's been a whole bunch of good quarterbacks come through the league. Obviously last year, a guy that I followed pretty closely, Brandon Weeden (a former Holgorsen pupil when both were at Oklahoma State in 2010), was in the league and Robert Griffin III was on his way to winning the Heisman Trophy.
"The league's been like that for as long as I can remember it. I've been fortunate to being at a lot of those games and coach a lot of those quarterbacks that existed. So it is how it is in college football this year. I mean, there's no gimmes on your schedule, I can assure you of that. You've got to be able to prepare for it."
The head coach noted he was glad to have hired former Oklahoma State safeties coach Joe DeForest as his new co-defensive coordinator, hoping DeForest's experience in game-planning for Big 12 offenses may pay dividends this season.
--But for most casual observers, the Mountaineers will be worth watching this season because of Holgorsen's iteration of the Air Raid offense. A reporter asked if there will be any tweaks to the scheme this season to better take advantage of the talents of Smith, receiver Tavon Austin and company.
"Yeah, we'll probably put something new out there. But I'm not going to tell you what it is," Holgorsen said, smiling.
For more up-to-the-minute news and analysis from Big 12 bloggers C.J. Moore and Patrick Southern, follow @CBSSportsBig12.