DALLAS - Since accepting the invitation to join the Big 12 Conference last October, West Virginia's football program has been forced to tailor its schedule to fit the demands that come with playing nine conference games.
The Mountaineers exited home-and-home series with Florida State and Michigan State that were to be played in succession the next four seasons, mostly because the non-conference chances they could be taking were too risky in front of a Big 12 schedule likely to feature a handful of ranked opponents every season.
Those moves aren't necessarily in line with what new Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby wants to see his teams doing.
Bowlsby issued something of an edict at the first day of the Big 12 media days Monday, saying the 10-member conference will be as aggressive in scheduling as it will be in all other endeavors.
He believes strength of schedule should and will be a significant factor in the process that selects the four teams to participate in the national championship series that begins in 2014.
"The second two-thirds of the season are terrific, but the first month of the season is not always terrific," Bowlsby said.
"And as we shape what will become the new postseason, one of the things that we have to build into the system is we have to make sure that it's fair, it's transparent, it's understandable, but we also have to do things in terms of how we structure the selection process to make sure that we encourage high-level matchups in the month of September."
WVU's reluctance to overschedule, especially as it gets to know its new opponents and visit all of the campuses in the next two seasons, is understandable. Perhaps the biggest culture shock that comes with being the Big 12's first member with watches set for the Eastern Time Zone and no foe within an 850-mile radius comes from the competition.
In the previous four seasons, WVU played three ranked Big East Conference teams in 28 games - and that accounted for just two schools. There's a chance the Mountaineers will play three ranked teams in a row when they play host to TCU on Nov. 10, visit Oklahoma State on Nov. 17 and host Oklahoma on Nov. 24.
The WVU season may be defined by that stretch, and the Mountaineers certainly will be evaluated at the end by what they do in Big 12 play. Those games will matter more than what happens in the first three games against Marshall on Sept. 1, James Madison on Sept. 15 and Maryland Sept. 22 - unless WVU would lose one of those. That is why teams across the country are softening their non-conference games in anticipation of the playoff.
"Don't mistake what I'm saying," Bowlsby said. "I think September is a part of the season that we use to get teams ready to play the rest of the season, and so playing a steady diet of top-25 teams is not necessarily what any coach wants to do and in most cases is not what's required to get a team ready to play in the conference schedule.
"So that isn't what's going to be encouraged in the context of the postseason playoff. Having said that, putting together a schedule that never takes you off your campus, that doesn't play against intersectional opponents, that doesn't create matchups that are significant for the media and significant in terms of comparison of the best teams around the country, the complete absence of that will also likely be penalized."