Will the real WVU stand up?

So, will Saturday be the day Mountaineer fans see the ‘real’ WVU team?

If not, we may have to resign ourselves to the ups and downs that the first three games of the season have given us.

During his 21-year tenure as the head coach at West Virginia, Hall of Fame coach Don Nehlen used to point at the Maryland game as a barometer of what fans could expect to see from the old gold and blue during the remainder of the campaign.

That may very well be the case at M&T Bank Stadium-home of the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens-as third-year head coach Dana Holgorsen faces his second ‘must win’ contest of the season.

The first came at Oklahoma in Week 2 when the Mountaineers and Sooners opened Big 12 play.

A victory in Norman would have gone a long way to improving the team’s chances of overcoming its No. 8 preseason ranking by media that cover the conference on a daily basis.

While the defense had its moments, the offense was ineffective leading to a 16-7 setback and an 0-1 mark in league play with a home contest slated against preseason favorite Oklahoma State a week from Saturday. A loss to the Cowboys and WVU’s chances of winning a Big 12 title in year two will all but be eliminated.

But, that game is still in the future and for this weekend, Holgorsen and his staff and players will take on a Maryland squad tired of losing to their border state rivals-WVU has captured the last seven contests-and riding high following a 3-0 start.

Yes, the Terrapins victories over FIU (43-10), Old Dominion (47-10 and Connecticut (32-21) aren’t exactly sending fear into the hearts of any team ranked in the latest Associated Press Top 25, but then again, West Virginia’s two wins-24-17 over William & Mary and 41-7 over Georgia State-haven’t exactly moved the Mountaineers into national championship contention.

But, more important than polls or national championships, this game is about bragging and recruiting rights.

West Virginia’s teams have historically had a number to talented athletes that come out of the Baltimore area. The most recent being a guy named Tavon Austin. And, we all know what he did during his four years in the old gold and blue.

A victory over the Terps will not only put West Virginia in a position to recruit more Tavon Austins, but will give it a 3-0 mark in the non-conference portion of its schedule and keep hopes alive that a 12th bowl appearance will be more than just a hope.

With Kansas and Iowa State remaining at the end of the schedule-games the Mountaineers will be heavily favored to win-that means that the Mountaineers would need just one more victory to again represent the Big 12 in the postseason.

With home games remaining against OSU, Texas Tech, Texas and the Cyclones, it would be hard to fathom that WVU can’t at least split that quartet of games while road games at Baylor, Kansas State, TCU and KU will be challenging, but all could be winnable if, or when, this year’s team morphs into its final phase.

Contact Jim Butta at jbutta@newsandsentinel.com