Down and Out (of Conference) in Morgantown Hills: WVU OOC Redux

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Down and Out (of Conference) in Morgantown Hills: WVU OOC Redux

Okay.  I'm the guy who wrote a B/R article last year about West Virginia's perennially weak out of conference schedules.

The title was "Pour Some Sugar On Me." The piece referred to the 2009 schedule as "Hostess Twinkies and Krispy Kreme German chocolate doughnuts all topped off with Cool-Whip and sparkles" such as I-AA Liberty University and 3-9 Colorado, a team that gave the Mountaineers fits at Milan Puskar.

Let's just say I didn't make any new friends that day, as I virtually offended everyone who had access to the Internet.

Admittedly, I tried too hard to be really cute, attempting a humorous discussion of what some consider a serious topic. 

I got the feeling that those who commented those two days didn't like my implication that WVU's athletic department resembled Pontius Pilate, as the two entities washed their hands of the matter with regard to "that's what the people want."

Realize that Pontius Pilate's actions were part of the Grand Design orchestrated by The Man Upstairs.  It's now 2,000 years later and you have to say things have worked out rather well there.

Re-examining 2009's schedule, that’s not so with the athletic department. 

The game on the road at Auburn was the only out of conference game that season that could have vaulted WVU flying high in the FBS skies.  However, late turnovers did the Mountaineers in as the Tigers rolled to a 41-30 triumph. 

Auburn finished 2009 at 8-5, a decent record considering the conference schedule they confronted.  It’s true that the War Eagle whoopers were basically buried in the SEC West standings at 3-5, but they did pull off an impressive win with a 38-35 overtime Outback Bowl finish over Northwestern. 

There you have it. WVU missed a pretty good chance to impress the pollsters and the computers.

In that game, West Virginia could have easily avoided the errant shovel passes (like not even attempted them) in the fourth quarter, thereby not giving away the lead.  Tough luck. An out of conference victory over a solid Southeastern Conference team would have been the signature road win Bill Stewart so craves and needs. 

However...

The remainder of the out of conference schedule didn't afford West Virginia the opportunity to shine.  Conference USA champion East Carolina at 9-5 looked sharp at times, but they are East Carolina and it is C-USA.  The other bowl team was 6-6 Marshall, yet another C-USA member with a very minor Little Caesar's Bowl win over Ohio.  After those, anemic Colorado and FCS Liberty didn't make the situation look any better.

It's time to revisit "that's what the people want."  Let's first look at 2010 and talk about what the people are going to get: Coastal Carolina (FCS), Marshall (7-6 in 2009), Maryland (2-10), LSU (9-4), and Nevada -Las Vegas (5-7).

The road trip to Baton Rouge is an exception because it's another opportunity to finish off a respected major conference team in its own backyard.  I think it's going to happen.

As for the others...are you kidding me? 

What can the Mountaineers possibly gain from a dubious 2010 out of conference schedule? They'd better beat Maryland.  And what's a win over Coastal Carolina going to get them? UNLV? Talk about sucking on a towel.

But, you know, if I'm right about the Marshall upset, and it is feasible, West Virginia would have to win the Big East to merely gain a modicum of respectability. 

The irony is painful: that's barely holding on to respectability with a 10-2 record!

There are ways to improve the situation:

a) Repeat after me: Hail, Mary, full of grace...

OR

b) Drop the FCS game completely, paying the guarantee without apologies, and make the game a home-and-home with a mid-pack team or better from another BCS conference. West Virginia would then in 2011 have on its out of conference schedule three teams from BCS conferences: LSU, Maryland, and another.

AND

c) Keep Marshall on the schedule with the previous deal, a two and one with the winner of two games getting the fourth game at home.

AND

d) Talk East Carolina into Marshall's deal.

That's Marshall and East Carolina from Conference USA taking the place of an FCS school and a UNLV-type.  LSU, Maryland, and a cooperative team from a BCS conference will comprise the strength of the schedule.  Juggle it around to provide the necessary seven home games, and you have five teams that have West Virginia absorbing the weak Big East slate.

Weak Big East slate? That's correct. We’re not in 2006 anymore.

As a writer, I look at the past athletic departments and I see money, but it’s a pursuit of money that sacrifices competition. 

As an "interested party," I always use the 2007 season as the goal, the season during which West Virginia was one winnable game from playing for the BCS Championship. All fans want to be there again. That’s what the people want, not another autumn of meaningless wins.

There is hope. I recall when the recently named AD Oliver Luck was the quarterback.  In 1978, Luck's first assignment as a freshman was against the very capable “throwin’ and mowin’” California Golden Bears. He nearly led the Mountaineers to victory.

During the 1978-1981 seasons, Penn State and Pittsburgh were year in, year out almost invincible.  Still, the athletic department scheduled competitive games with Oklahoma, North Carolina State, Kentucky, Arizona State, Maryland, Virginia Tech, and Virginia.

I'm not calling those seasons ideal, but they were definitely better than wasting time with Coastal Carolina and UNLV.

Hopefully, Oliver Luck will remember his glory years and structure a slate with teams that all fans will be proud to defeat.

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