West Virginia Football: A Strange Schedule, Some Strange Truths

RG YohoCorrespondent IJune 25, 2010

COLLEGE PARK, MD - SEPTEMBER 17:  Quarterback Sam Hollenbach #14 of Maryland carries the ball on a keeper as Craig Wilson #66 of West Virginia defends during the second half on September 17, 2005 at Byrd Stadium in College Park, Maryland. West Virginia defeated Maryland 31-19.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

This year’s West Virginia football schedule is just about the strangest I ever remember.


The Mountaineers finish off the season with three straight road games.


Three straight road games to end a football season is a tough schedule for any team. Finishing off a season, while on the road, could take one team’s potentially great season and quickly transform it into an average one.


If that wasn’t strange enough, the Mountaineers’ three-game, season-ending road trip is preceded by a six-game home stand.


And as someone who has followed the Mountaineers for many years, I have to admit, this is one of the oddest schedules in recent memory.


Like many other teams, the Mountaineers season opener is a game that West Virginia should win easily. However, if they fail to play up to their potential, then they risk an opening day embarrassment, much like the one suffered by Michigan to Appalachian State a few years ago.


West Virginia’s second game is an in-state matchup on the road with Marshall University. That, too, is a game the Mountaineers ought to win.


However, Marshall’s first-year head coach is none other than John “Doc” Holliday, who was a West Virginia assistant the year before.


Holliday, who should be intimately familiar with Coach Stewart’s usual plans of attack, could make things difficult for his former boss. With that unusual dynamic added to the equation, it definitely isn’t a game West Virginia should take for granted.


In my opinion, the third and fourth games of the season are the contests that will ultimately determine whether the Mountaineers will be a good football team or a great one.


The third game of the year is a home matchup with Maryland, resuming a series that was interrupted the past two years.


Traditionally, this out-of-conference contest between these two bordering states was considered to be a barometer of the Mountaineer’s potential for success.

The game with the Terrapins, an extremely physical stuggle with an ACC opponent, is always played before a packed house. Mountaineer fans from the eastern part of the state see this contest as a chance for bragging rights over their border rivals.


Whenever they won, the Mountaineers often headeded to a post-season bowl game. And if they lost, then Mountaineer fans would generally be spending their bowl money on extra Christmas gifts for the loved ones.

The fourth game of the season, West Virginia travels to LSU.


Any road game against an SEC opponent is likely to be a tough, hard-fought affair. However, this is one of the toughest teams in the conference, playing in front of their own fans, in their own stadium. No doubt the game will also be televised to the nation.


Should West Virginia emerge from the LSU game with a victory, then it is quite likely that the Mountaineers will be the odds-on favorite to capture the Big East Championship.


A loss certainly wouldn’t be devastating to the Mountaineers’ prospects for a great season; because all of their conference games would still be ahead of them. But a win over the Tigers would clearly be a signature win for Coach Bill Stewart in his third season.


As we get closer to the season opener, I will probably discuss the schedule in some greater depth.


Until then, I think it is critical for Mountaineer fans to understand the importance of the third and fourth game of the season.


Strangely enough, these two out-of-conference affairs could determine if the Big East Championship trophy finally returns to its rightful place, in Morgantown, West Virginia.