West Virginia has finally generated some buzz this season. In an interview, Neal Brown just recently stated that he is ‘not surprised’ that WVU is 3-1 – I wish I could say the same. I was one of those who expected this to be a season where the team crashed and burned, hopefully rising from the ashes spectacularly, like TCU dropping Gary Patterson, Kansas releasing Les Miles, and so on. However, that is not what it looks like will happen. Now, you have to have the conversation along with the other major outlets of if WVU is capable of not only winning more of their games but potentially winning all their remaining games. Crazy, right?
Some would say a little too crazy. But it is interesting to consider that if the defense continues to hold teams to a limited number, as they did with Texas Tech, is it possible? You must consider that Tech is not a team used to being held to 13 points, even in games they lose. They have not scored less than 30 points in a game this year and only did so a few times last season in their run to the Texas Bowl. Pitt is another example in our season of teams used to putting up points that are stymied before they can. Pitt hosted the (15) UNC Tarheels last weekend, and while they suffered yet another loss, they hung 24 points on the rapidly rising team. And yes, still with their amazing quarterback, Phil Jurkovec. We held Pitt to 6 points when they came to Morgantown.
So, when do you feel good about getting on the hype train rolling through? When does it derail, I guess, is the better question? Can you win out in the conference – let’s take a look at the remaining games of the schedule:
- @ TCU – This weekend will be a true test of this Neal Brown squad. You aren’t getting thrown into the jaws of the University of Texas machine chomping through conference right now, but you are facing the former contenders for the National Championship. Chandler Morris lacks the spirit of Max Duggan, but has the full support of the Frogs fanbase. Lines vary considerably from a touchdown to 10 points, favoring the Horned Frogs. This is an absolutely pivotal game to get people sitting on the fence believing in the team. TCU is one of three seriously challenging opponents on the schedule for the Mountaineers and one of several games WVU is still projected to handily lose. But – do they?
Win/Loss: If a win, it comes down to the wire.
- @ Houston – This will be more of a fight (at least for the first ½ to ¾ of the game) than it seems. Dana does not want to keep losing, as his seat is warming in Houston as it is. It might be entirely on fire if they drop another conference game to Texas Tech this weekend before our matchup on the road. While Holgorsen might not be worried about his spot as Head Coach, you can bet he puts together a well-thought-out scheme focused on any weaknesses we have shown. He has a bye week, too, remember?
Win/Loss: Big win for the program
- Oklahoma State – Oklahoma State and Baylor are both sprinting to be the worst in the conference, and we face the Cowboys first in our games against Gundy and Aranda. OSU did get some life this past weekend but still lost to Iowa State, another one of this year’s disappointing programs, and should not be much of a test for the Mountaineers at home as long as they play all four quarters to completion.
- @ UCF – This is where I think the schedule starts to get weird. Traveling to play in Central Florida is going to be a challenge. The fanbase there is large and loud, and while I do not believe that UCF is as good of a team as TCU is or Oklahoma, I do think that they are a lot to deal with if all of their offensive pieces are active at this point.
Win/Loss: Close Loss
- BYU – You can look at this like the Backyard Brawl revisited. Slovis was the QB for the Panthers against his former teammate, JT Daniels, last year when the rivalry reignited in Pittsburgh. A high-profile team that could be getting right by this point of the year should make for a rock fight in Morgantown that is too close for comfort.
Win/Loss: Close win.
- @ Oklahoma – There is no mistake that the two teams voted most likely to leave the conference next year for the SEC are leading the conference – at least right now. I am firmly in the camp that Oklahoma has yet to see a real test, and they have a few tough games on their slate coming up that might show us some ways to exploit their offensive strategies or defensive capabilities to slip one by the Sooners in Norman.
Win/Loss: At least at this point, loss.
- Cincinnati – Who is Cincinnati going to be in the conference? Our former Big East opponent kicks off our series of future games in Morgantown, a distinct disadvantage for them. We are going to get one of two types of games here depending on how the game went a week before against the Sooners – either you have a Mountaineer squad riding high at 8-2 on the season, or you have a banged up and tired field product that keeps this one competitive until the final whistle.
Win/Loss: regardless of the style of the game, WVU wins.
- @ Baylor – The Bears will have to work hard to get out of the bad reputation they are building for themselves across the conference. They all but laid down and took whatever the Texas Longhorns had to give last week, so it is not shocking to think that they might only be in it to play spoiler for a team by this point in the year. This is a dangerous final game where the implications could be critical – especially if you have a couple of two-loss conference teams sitting at the top of the standings.
Can WVU win out? Yes, but it will take a lot of doing. Personally, I do not see that happening. However, you CAN make the case that they might be in contention for the Big 12 title game because the top teams all face steep challenges that could result in losses throughout the rest of the year:
Oklahoma faces Texas, UCF, and Kansas just in October. They also travel to play BYU in Provo, which is no easy place to win.
Kansas State faces Kansas, Texas, and TCU
Kansas will look to keep winning out against Texas this week, UCF, Oklahoma, and Kansas State.
If everyone hands out some losses, WVU stays right in that pack of those in consideration for a trip to Arlington this year. Even being in the conversation is enough to say yeah, that’s progress.
Photo Credit: ESPN