1 . Long Island
Long Island—an FCS team—is currently playing their 2020-21 games this spring, with a current record of 2-2. In the 2019 season, the Sharks couldn’t get a single win, going 0-10. LIU will come to Morgantown on Sept. 11 for the home opener in Milan Puskar Stadium.
2 . Kansas
The failed Les Miles era in Lawrence has come to a quick end after two seasons. The Jayhawks are now led by Lance Leipold. Leipold previously coached at Buffalo (2015-20) and took the Bulls to three consecutive bowl games. Kansas will also be without their great running back Pooka Williams —who was signed by the Cincinnati Bengals as an undrafted free agent. West Virginia will have to wait until the last game of the regular season to play KU.
3 . Texas Tech
West Virginia’s most disappointing loss last season was to Texas Tech, losing in Lubbock, 34-27. If you remember from that game, the Mountaineers lost due to their ability to rack up penalties on both sides of the ball. The deciding touchdown was a fumble by receiver Sam James that was taken back to the end zone. The Red Raiders finished the 2020 season 4-6, as they head into their third season under Matt Wells.
4 . Baylor
Baylor’s first season without former head coach Matt Rhule was a disappointing 2-7 season in 2020. As the Bears look to improve off of a season they would like to forget, they will be without their four-year quarterback as Charlie Brewer transferred to Utah over the off-season. 2021 will be an interesting challenge for the Bears as they look to bounce back.
5 . Maryland
The Mountaineers will kick off their season at College Park on Sept. 4. In the shortened season, the Terrapins went 2-3 in the Big 10. The biggest headline coming out of Maryland last season was how Taulia Tagovailoa was going to adjust leading the Maryland offense. Tagovailoa—the brother of Miami Dolphins’ quarterback Tua—threw for 1,011 yards with seven touchdowns and seven interceptions.
6 . Virginia Tech
West Virginia will look to recapture the Black Diamond Trophy for the first time since 2003 as Virginia Tech will come to Morgantown on Sept. 18. The Hokies haven’t been their usual selves since they were playing WVU annually in the Big East. Under head coach Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech has lost their last three bowl games and missed a selection in 2020. Last season, the Hokies ended the year 5-6, as they lost four out of their five last games.
7 . TCU
TCU heads into the 2021 season riding on some momentum as they won their final three games last season. The Horned Frogs defeated Kansas (59-23), Oklahoma State (29-22) and Louisiana Tech (52-10). Gary Patterson’s defense this season should be one of the best in the Big 12 as TCU brings back Ochaun Mathis, Dee Winters and Khari Coleman. Mathis was tenth in the country with 8.0 sacks. Winters had 9.5 tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks and a fumble recovery. Coleman—a sophomore defensive end—had 15.0 tackles for loss last season, ranking seventh in the country.
8 . Kansas State
One of WVU’s highlights last season was defeating Kansas State on Halloween Day, 37-10. The once 4-1 Wildcats finished the year 4-6, losing their final five games. If KSU can play as they did in the first half of 2020, they’ll be a very respectable team in the Big 12.
9 . Oklahoma State
After another bowl appearance for Mike Gundy and company, Oklahoma State will look to continue to be a great team in the Big 12. The Cowboys were highlighted by Chuba Hubbard and Tylan Wallace last season. Now as both players are in the NFL, quarterback Spencer Sanders will attempt to lead the offense without his two playmakers. The consistency of the Oklahoma State program will keep them competitive.
10 . Texas
Alabama offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian was the man selected to replace former head coach Tom Herman after another underwhelming season by the Texas football standards. Sarkisian will come to Austin looking to bring in his offensive mind to the Longhorns. Texas lost Sam Ehlinger and Joseph Ossai to the NFL draft but will bring back playmakers such as Bijan Robinson and Roschon Johnson. Casey Thompson is projected to take over Ehlinger’s spot at quarterback under Sarkisian.
11 . Iowa State
The Cyclones had their best season in school history, winning a program-high of nine wins in a season. Iowa State concluded last season by defeating Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl. ISU brings back almost all of their productivity from last season. Brock Purdy, Breece Hall and Mike Rose just to name a few great players that will be coming back for Matt Campbell.
12 . Oklahoma
Oklahoma enters 2021 as the favorites to make the College Football Playoff from the Big 12. The Sooners had a rough start to last season, losing to Kansas State (38-35) and Iowa State (37-30). Oklahoma was able to string eight wins in a row, concluding their season with wins over Iowa State (27-21) in the Big 12 Championship and Florida in the Cotton Bowl (55-20). Lincoln Riley will run it back another season with quarterback Spencer Rattler. Rattler threw for over 3,000 yards and 28 touchdowns in 2020. On the defensive side of the ball, Nik Bonitto and Isaiah Thomas also return. West Virginia will look to get a piece of Oklahoma after their game in 2020 was canceled. WVU will travel to Norman, Oklahoma on Sept. 25.
(Top Photo: Ben Queen)