According to ESPN’s Football Power Index, this upcoming season will be a challenge to say the least. ESPN’s FPI ranks West Virginia as the eighth hardest schedule in the country, behind only LSU, Iowa State, TCU, Texas, Kansas, Auburn, and Arkansas.
Earlier this year, head coach Neal Brown emphasized the fact that West Virginia will be playing a hard schedule. During the Big 12 media day’s he lamented that his team will be playing against 11 “Power Five” opponents, which is more than all but three other teams in the country.
“Schedule-wise, [it is] very challenging, playing 11 Power Fives,” Brown said. “We’re one of four universities that play 11 Power Five, nine league games, as you know, and we play two regional rivals. And the regional rivals are important for our fanbase. We open at Maryland, which is going to be a challenge, and week three we welcome Virginia Tech, and going back to the Big East days, [Virginia Tech is] one of the main rivals for our program. We are looking forward to the challenge.”
With all of that being said, here is a breakdown of West Virginia’s schedule for this upcoming year and a breakdown of why they will or will not win each game.
September 4 @ Maryland– This game is exciting for both fanbases as this is the first meeting between this schools since 2015, and West Virginia leads the series 28-22-2. This game will have a lot of hype around it as it will be the opening game for both teams. I expect West Virginia to win this game in a close one, with the defense making enough plays to stop Taulia Tagovailoa and the Maryland offense.
September 11 vs LIU- The home opener for West Virginia should be a fun one. FCS squad LIU comes to Morgantown and I expect West Virginia to be 2-0 after two games played.
September 18 vs Virginia Tech- This game could have massive recruiting implications, and be one of the better and more competitive games on WVU’s schedule. Playing for the Black Diamond Trophy, West Virginia will look to avenge its loss from 2017. This game will be at home and the crowd should be somewhat of a factor. I expect West Virginia to win this game in very close fashion with a turnover late being the difference.
September 25 @ Oklahoma- Since coming into the Big 12, the only opponent West Virginia has failed to beat has been the Sooners. Not only will this game be played in Norman, but it will be coming after three straight weeks and two rivalry games. This year’s Oklahoma squad might be the most complete team under Lincoln Riley and I don’t expect any upsets happening as West Virginia will suffer their first loss of the year.
October 2 vs Texas Tech- In what will be Homecoming weekend for West Virginia should deliver a good game for this year’s squad. West Virginia will be playing its fifth game in as many weeks and will be coming off a tough loss on the road to Oklahoma. ESPN FPI gives West Virginia a 62.5% chance to win this game, and I agree that they will win this game, putting them in the thick of the Big 12 race heading into October with a 4-1 record.
October 9 @ Baylor- This game is a winnable game for West Virginia. Baylor will be coming off of two tough games against Iowa State and Oklahoma State in back-to-back weeks. The Bears are in the second year of head coach Dave Aranda’s tenure and I think this game will prove to people if Neal Brown and company have finally taken that next step to become a top team in the Big 12. I think West Virginia escapes with just their second win in Waco since joining the Big 12.
October 23 @ TCU- After a bye week, the Mountaineers will travel to face TCU. Last season WVU handled TCU fairly easily, beating them 24-6. I don’t see Neal Brown only having one loss heading into the Iowa State game, so here is a game that West Virginia will let slip away late and lose to fall to 5-2.
October 30 vs Iowa State- West Virginia got blowout last year in Ames, and the Cyclones return much of that team that almost went onto win a Big 12 Championship. Expect a game that West Virginia seems to be hanging in, but Iowa State pulls away in the 4th quarter.
November 6 vs Oklahoma State- Oklahoma State has owned West Virginia as of late. The Cowboys have won six straight meetings between these two schools and this game should be another close one. I do think however that a West Virginia team will be ready to go after losing to back-to-back games and will snap that six game losing skid against Oklahoma State.
November 13 @ Kansas State- West Virginia dominated in their meeting last season winning 37-10 after Kansas State got off to a good start to the season, including a win against Oklahoma. I do think West Virginia is the better team and will win this game, improving their record to 7-3.
November 20 vs Texas- Texas will have a new regime coming in this season and with all the distractions about them joining the SEC, who knows what the state of this program could be by the time they make the trip to Morgantown. Obviously the weather could play an impact, but West Virginia will find a way to win on Senior Day, and finish their home record at 5-1.
November 27 @ Kansas- West Virginia has only lost one time against Kansas and I expect that number to not change this season. West Virginia will close out a strong and surprising regular season with a win, and finish the year 9-3, 6-3 Big 12.
A lot of West Virginia’s success will be determined in these games early in the year against Maryland and Virginia Tech as well as in their games in the early October against the middle of the pack of the Big 12.
West Virginia has the ability to win nine games, but will they be able to take that full step forward that they expect to take remains to be seen. Oklahoma and Iowa State I think will be the two best teams in the league this year with teams such as Oklahoma State and TCU having the ability to be surprisingly good.
If the defense is able to pick up where they left off from a season ago and the offense is able to get behind Leddie Brown and Jarret Doege improves and continues to take care of the football then West Virginia can finish in the top four in the Big 12.
Photo by Dale Sparks, WVU