The Non Con Schedule
West Virginia will have a heated race to replace Geno Smith as their starting quarterback when fall camp opens but the good news is that whoever wins the job will get to have their first start against William and Mary. Talk about a confidence builder.
The Tribe competes in the Colonial Athletic Conference and is coming off a 2-9 season in which their only wins came against Georgia State and Penn.
That same Georgia State team that William and Mary beat in 2012, yep, they’re on the Mountaineers schedule, too, in what should be another name-your-score-game type of game. Again, that’s great for building confidence but then again, it will be tough to gauge how good the Mountaineers will be in 2013 (that happens in week two against OU, more on that in a minute) against what will likely be two vastly inferior opponents.
West Virginia close out the nonconference portion of their schedule in Baltimore against a Maryland team that WVU took care of 31-21 last season. The Terps come in on the heels of a 4-8 season that included six straight losses to end the year.
It’s worth noting, however, that Maryland suffered a barrage of injuries at quarterback and were forced to look at everyone on the roster to fill the void. Assuming that doesn’t happen again, the Terps should be a much improved team in 2013 and could push the Mountaineers to the limit when they meet on September 21st.
The first loss of the season will happen when:
|08/31/13||vs. William & Mary|
|09/14/13||vs. Georgia State|
|09/21/13||vs. Maryland (in Baltimore)|
|09/28/13||vs. Oklahoma State|
|10/19/13||vs. Texas Tech|
|10/26/13||@ Kansas State|
|11/30/13||vs. Iowa State|
West Virginia travels to Norman to take on the Sooners in the season’s second week. It was alluded to above, but bunched in between the cupcake games with William and Mary and Georgia State is the Mountaineers first conference game of the season against OU.
Whether Clint Trickett, Paul Millard, or Ford Childress wins the starting QB job, it goes without saying that it will be likely be a case of baptism by fire for all those except Trickett.
Ironically, it was the FSU transfer Trickett who stepped in for the injured E.J. Manuel against Oklahoma in 2011 when Florida State took on OU in Tallahassee. He performed admirably well, keeping the Seminoles in the game until the end. Does that give him a leg up on the starting job? Who knows but WVU could surely use his game experience early in the season playing on OU’s home turf.
We will know West Virginia is for real when:
Beating Oklahoma in Norman would surely raise a few eyebrows, but assuming that doesn’t happen, how they fare in their next two conference games against Oklahoma State and Baylor will go a long way in determining if this team has a chance to beat expectations in 2013.
First off, all eyes will be the Mountaineers defense to see if they have the ability to stop anyone this fall, something that happened with little regularity in 2012. They had trouble winning games with Geno Smith, Tavon Austin, and Stedman Bailey on offense last season and it stands to reason that it won’t get any easier with those three now in the NFL.
Dana Holgorsen seemed pleased with the transition to Keith Patterson as defensive coordinator and given the fact WVU takes on three of the league’s best offenses in their first three conference games, we will know early on how big a jump they’ve been able to make on the defensive side of the ball.
If they can find a way to win two of those three games, well then, this Mountaineer team may in fact be “for real” and it would certainly improve the outlook for the rest of the season.
Biggest game of the season:
Several games could fit the bill here, but I’ll go with the Oklahoma State game on September 28th. It will be the Mountaineers first conference home game of the season, not to mention the Cowboys happen to be the media’s pick to win the Big 12. A win against Mike Gundy’s team would certainly prove that even with the massive losses WVU suffered on offense, they’re a team that no one should take lightly.
Should they happen to lose to the Cowboys, there's still plenty of season left to get back on track. At some point, however, West Virginia is going to have to beat someone from the upper echelon of the conference in order to get back there themselves. Beating Oklahoma State would certainly qualify.
What does it all mean?
Nobody knows what to expect from West Virginia in 2013 and outside of the two FCS opponents on the docket, the schedule won’t do them any favors.
West Virginia has road games at Oklahoma, Baylor, Kansas State, TCU, and Kansas and figure to be favorites in only one of those games. Homes games with Oklahoma State and Texas won’t be walks in the park meaning games with the likes of Texas Tech and Iowa State take on the tag of “must win” games; that is if the Mountaineers hope to have bowl plans for the holiday season.
The second half of the conference schedule looks to be slightly easier than the first if only for the fact that WVU finishes with Kansas and Iowa State. Both of the games could come with bowl eligibility on the line depending on what happens the rest of the season.
People love to talk about the depth of the Big 12 and WVU will certainly feel that depth with few, if any, breaks through their first seven conference games.