It won’t be long until the Mountaineers find out their bowl destination for the 2020 season. After finishing 5-4 in the regular season, Neal Brown and his squad have a lot to build on moving into the future. The offense will return virtually everyone in 2021, and the defense has the pieces to continue their dominance. However, if Brown wants to ensure that his program has the proper momentum going into his third season on the job, then he must produce this postseason. He must lead the Mountaineers to a bowl win at the end of this month.
We have seen before just how momentum from a bowl win can impact the team the following season. When West Virginia won the Motel 6 Cactus Bowl over Arizona State in 2016, 43-42, the Mountaineers would have their best season in the Big 12 the following season. They would roar onto the scene and finish the year at 10-3. Only the ninth time in the program’s history that they have finished with ten wins or more. We could very well see the same jump next season if West Virginia can pull of the postseason win this year.
For a team as young as West Virginia, a bowl win could go a long way. Being able to win on any kind of stage similar to a bowl game can be used as a good recruiting tool. Players come play College Football to experience moments like that. Though West Virginia’s bowl game will not carry any kind of significance necessarily, it gives hope that in the future these games will with a win. Players and big time recruits are what West Virginia need right now, and the national audience for the bowl game can help with landing some of them in Morgantown.
Not only will recruits be riding on the bowl game this season, but fans will too. Though they are not always the most rational group, some Mountaineer fans are growing restless with the “Trust the Climb” era. This is mostly due to a rebuild that is taking longer than they had hoped. Winning the bowl game would not only appease fans, but it would show them what Neal Brown is capable of doing in the postseason. Having lost five of our last six bowl games, WVU fans are starving for a bowl game record similar to Brown’s 3-0 that he compiled while at Troy.
Call it “pointless” all you want, but this year’s bowl game will determine just the trajectory the Mountaineers are on. Win, and you appease the fans, attract recruits, and have something to build off of for the future. Lose, and you close the 2020 season with the sour taste of two straight losses in your mouth, and kill any momentum for next year. Neal Brown has to win the bowl game in 2020, the perception of the program for the future depends on it.