MORGANTOWN — The importance of West Virginia's regular-season finale cannot be overstated. Win and the Mountaineers use one stone to kill two vultures that have loomed over them for seven years: an inability to beat Oklahoma, and a failure to play for a Big 12 championship.
"Obviously when this schedule came out over a year ago, our hopes were for this game to mean something," said WVU coach Dana Holgorsen, who is 0-6 against the Sooners. "This is the first time in our Big 12 tenure that this game means something."
For some Mountaineers, it doesn't just mean something. It means everything.
"That would mean a lot," said senior safety Toyous Avery. "We've never beat Oklahoma in the Big 12. It's a home game; senior night. It'll be real emotional. A lot of tension everywhere."
It's the type of game that has the ability to define both the present and future of West Virginia's program.
A loss likely puts West Virginia in a second-tier bowl game despite having its most talented roster of Holgorsen's tenure. A win pushes the Mountaineers one step closer to a conference championship and an attractive New Year's bowl matchup.
Even though logic says this is the most significant game of Holgorsen's eight years at West Virginia, he thinks the program is moving in the right direction regardless of the result.
"The recruiting aspect of it is continuously getting better, so this ain't a do-or-die situation for me or this program. I will refute that until I can't refute it anymore," Holgorsen said. "But it would be big. We know it would be big."
Seniors like receiver David Sills see it as important aspect of their legacy to be part of the first WVU team to earn a conference win over Oklahoma.
"The players have definitely spoke about 'How are we going to leave our legacy? How are we going to be remembered?'" Sills said. "We know this game has a lot in going into that."
An increasing margin of defeat against Oklahoma has helped increase the feeling of importance in finally toppling the Sooners. After winning the first meeting in 2012 by a single point, Oklahoma has gone on to wins of 9, 12, 20, 28 and 28 in ascending order.
A Mountaineer win erases the perception that the gulf between the programs is impossible to bridge.
"It would put us in the right direction. What better way for these seniors to leave this program than to beat Oklahoma and put us in the Big 12 championship?" Sills said. "Coming in for the younger guys and the class coming in, I think that would put the program in a pretty good spot."
With a loaded senior cast leading the way, it would seem that if any year were meant to be for West Virginia, this is the one.
"I really think we can do it," Avery said. "I know we can do it. I just can't wait for Friday."
This article is written by Alex Hickey from The Dominion Post, Morgantown, W.Va. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.