Pour Some Sugar on Me: West Virginia and Its Out-of-Conference Pastries
West Virginia’s out-of-conference schedule in the recent past has been stacked with Hostess Twinkies and Krispy Kreme German chocolate donuts, all topped off with Cool-Whip and sparkles.
For example: The OOC in 2007 was Maryland auguring in, Mississippi State drafting Maryland, East Carolina in a down year, Marshall always in a down year, and the perennial powerhouse Western Michigan.
The combined score of this edition of the seasonal farce was 227-81 with a perfect five wins. The Mountaineers have you quaking in your boots, don’t they?
The 2006 season was no better. The murderer's row lineup was consistently lost Marshall, FCS Eastern Washington (picked up after Buffalo canceled; thank God no Buffalo!), spiraling Maryland, East Carolina in a down year before the following down year, and SEC doormat Mississippi State.
OOC score? Try 208-61 (deee-fense!) with five wins.
Now, the 2008 out-of-conference campaign looked...how do you say...challenging. FCS Villanova brought the pigskin, giving up a hoops score of 48.
There was, however, a storm on the horizon.
The Mountaineers' D-backs were backpedalling as the ‘Cats got off the bus. Result? WVU’s inability to defend the pass was obvious, especially over the middle. ‘Nova dialed up 21 it should not have gotten in Morgantown with the West Virginia first unit in the game.
The following weekend, West Virginia visited Greenville, North Carolina, to face an East Carolina team that seven days before had upset Virginia Tech in Charlotte on a blocked punt.
At Dowdy-Ficklen, ECU held WVU’s Pat White and his daunting offense to three...quarters? No, points. East Carolina proved at the time to be for real, having defeated two teams with the word "Virginia" in the name.
Wounded, the Mounties traveled to Boulder to take on Colorado in a Thursday night date at the John Denver Sing-Along Stoner Bowl (“Rocky Mountain High, Colorado” versus “Almost Heaven, West Virginia”).
Folsom Field was the sight of the game.
Another recording artist, Johnny Cash, was obviously nearby singing to WVU, “I’m stuck in Folsom Prison.” Well, the Mountaineers’ offense ain’t seen the sunshine since I don’t know when, and time kept draggin’ on as the Buffaloes tormented head coach Bill Stewart with his own bad coaching decisions in overtime. I hear that train a-comin’. Too bad it’s the proverbial light in the tunnel.
West Virginia mercifully went home, beating both Marshall (as eight teams did) and Auburn (joining six others) as the War Eagles enjoyed the rest in the nest.
The Mountaineers’ athletic director had attempted to upgrade the OOC schedule. Nominally, he did. However, the once-proud programs of Auburn and Colorado produced teams with equivalent 5-7 records, East Carolina fell apart, Marshall maintained futility, and Villanova played like...well...a basketball school.
This 2009 season the out-of-conference schedule is no better. The sole road game is at Jordan-Hare in Auburn. The Tigers are predicted to finish no higher than fifth in the SEC West, even after munching delectable éclairs such as FCS Furman, Ball State, and Louisiana Tech.
Colorado looks to be fourth in the Big XII North with Colorado State, Toledo, and Wyoming to warm up on. In the unusual circumstances of this year, Marshall and East Carolina could be tough, but the late Jerry Falwell’s FCS Liberty doesn’t have a prayer.
If West Virginia wants to be a serious contender for the BCS championship (without advancing by attrition as they did in 2007), they’re going to have do it similarly to Miami in the early '80s and take a meaty out-of-conference schedule on a road tour.
That may necessitate setting up some two-for-ones with schools like Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Ohio State, Michigan (wouldn’t that be delightful?), Texas, and Southern California. Oh, and the Mountaineers will also have to win them.
I realize West Virginia football is a profit center and needs seven home games to make it work, and WVU can get those seven games.
But it’s time to ask the question: What do you want...the Big East leftovers bowl or a legitimate shot at national prominence?
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