MORGANTOWN-It's one of the most asked questions these days. No, it doesn't have to do with the economy and it's about as far away from the discussion over a national health plan as you can get.
The question involves how well, or badly, will a fan's favorite college football team do in 2009. And, if you are a fan of West Virginia University football, it's a question which has many possible answers.
Analysts from inside the Mountain State and on every talk radio show have picked the old gold and blue to finish anywhere from 6-6 to 12-0 this coming fall.
The following is a game-by-game breakdown of the season and how the Mountaineers match up with their opponent:
Liberty University (Flames): The Big South Conference member is coming off an impressive 10-2 overall mark in 2008. But to believe the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision foe will be anything but a warmup for the Mountaineers is kidding oneself.
This should be, and Mountaineer fans must hope it will be, over by halftime. Second-year head coach Bill Stewart should be able to see a lot of his younger players and people wanting to get a quick look at incoming freshmen standouts Eugene Smith, Tavon Austin and Steadman Bailey should leave Mountaineer Field happy.
East Carolina (Pirates): Picking ECU to win against West Virginia hasn't been a smart thing to do. Especially when you look at the Mountaineers' 17-3 edge in the series.
But, this game will be an early season test for Stewart and his charges as Pirates' head coach Skip Holtz has the program headed in the right direction. Last year's 24-3 shellacking has them believing they belong on the same field as the old gold and blue.
WVU should be 2-0 after this game, but it will surprise few people if it was 1-1.
at Auburn University (Tigers): The first road test of the year comes against an Auburn squad which West Virginia pretty much had its way with last year in Morgantown.
WVU will also be facing its first new coach of the season as 23-year veteran Gene Chizik left his job at Iowa State to return to Auburn. He inherits a team with an anemic offense, but seven starters back on a defensive unit which played well for the most part.
A win over an SEC opponent always looks good on a team's resume and a victory here would do wonders for WVU's hopes of landing in a BCS bowl.
If the game was being played in Morgantown, you would have to go with the home team. It's not, so the game is a tossup.
University of Colorado (Buffaloes): No game on the year had Mountaineer fans questioning the ability of the new coaching staff than WVU's 17-14 overtime loss at Colorado.
The Big 12 team returns 10 starters on offense, but only five on defense.
Again, a victory over a Big 12 program looks good to those who vote in the national polls and a win over the Buffaloes would be just the thing to propel WVU into the national limelight.
WVU could be 4-0 at this juncture and ready to take on the Big East. A 4-1 mark shouldn't have Mountaineer fans upset. However, a 2-2 record could have people wondering if this will be a repeat of 2008.
at Syracuse University (Orange): West Virginia opens Big East play in the 'big oven' known as the Carrier Dome.
They say the temperature is kept at a comfortable 72 degrees, but Mountaineers fans have rarely felt comfortable in the enclosed arena.
The Orange will be the second team WVU will face that will have a new coach. Doug Marrone took over the program after last year's 3-9 debacle.
Syracuse returns 16 starters, but West Virginia has owned this series of late and there is little reason to believe it won't this year.
Marshall University (Thundering Herd): The Friends of Coal Bowl has been anything but friendly to the green and white clad Herd.
WVU owns an 8-0 mark against its instate rival and it doesn't appear that 2009 will be the year the Thundering Herd break that streak.
With a little luck the Mountaineers should be 6-0 at this point. However, a 5-1 or 4-2 mark is just as possible. Anything worse and you will start hearing rumblings in the stands at Milan Puskar Stadium.
University of Connecticut (Huskies): WVU's second straight opponent which has failed to record a victory over the old gold and blue.
The Mountaineers are 5-0 lifetime against their Big East foe and UConn will be without All-American running back Donald Brown, who jumped to the NFL.
Connecticut rarely plays well in Morgantown, so look for WVU to make it 6-0.
at University of South Florida (Bulls): If West Virginia is to make a legitimate run at the Big East crown, this is a must-win. Problem is the Mountaineers haven't played their best football in Tampa.
Making the game a tossup is a Bulls' defense which seems tailor-made to stop WVU's spread attack. Throw in one of the premier quarterbacks in the country in senior Matt Grothe as well as a sure-to-be NFL top draft pick in defensive end George Selvie and it is easy to understand why this game could go either way.
University of Louisville (Cardinals): With 20 starters back from last year's 5-7 squad, many believe that third-year head coach Steve Kragthrope is ready to have his Cards turn the corner.
The return of leading rusher Victor Anderson, who was heavily recruited by the Mountaineers' former coaching staff, is a plus, but the key to any turnaround revolves around new defensive coordinator Brent Guy's ability to improve Louisville's defense.
If you are keeping tabs, WVU could very well be 9-0 at this point. An 8-1 or 7-2 mark would be acceptable. However, a few unlucky bounces of the ball could send the Mountaineers into their final three regular season games with a 6-3 or 5-4 mark.
at University of Cincinnati (Bearcats): West Virginia leads the overall series by a 14-2-1 margin so this should be an automatic victory-wrong.
Brian Kelly has won back-to-back Big East Coach of the Year awards for a reason-he knows how to coach. The Bearcats must replace 10 starters on defense, but the offense appears loaded behind returning quarterback Tony Pike.
If you were in Vegas, this would be one of their pick 'em games.
University of Pittsburgh (Panthers): The last two times WVU has faced the Dave Wannstedt-led Panthers in the Backyard Brawl, the former-NFL coach appeared to be tottering on the brink of losing his head coaching job.
Back-to-back wins in one of the country's oldest-and hottest-rivalries will do wonders for a person's resume, however.
The Panthers are the preseason favorite to win the Big East while WVU was picked to finish second. But, anyone who has followed the Backyard Brawl over the years understands that those predictions mean absolutely nothing in a game which could go either way.
at Rutgers University (Scarlet Knights): When you are 30-4-2 all-time against an opponent, you are supposed to be a prohibitive favorite to win the game.
However, there are those who believe ninth-year head coach Greg Schiano has finally come up with a formula to get his Scarlet Knights to the top of the Big East.
Rutgers returns a solid offense led by senior quarterback Mike Teel and a defense with six starters back.
So, what does all of this mean?
Could WVU be 12-0 in 2009? Yes.
Will it be? The money in Vegas says no. West Virginia will probably lose a game it's not suppose to lose and may very well win a game or two where it's picked to lose.
But, a 9-3 mark and a top spot in the Big East should make most Mountaineer fans happy.