Over the past two weeks, we’ve been previewing the upcoming schedules for each Big 12 team. The series concludes with West Virginia:
Nonconference opponents (with 2016 record)
Sept. 3: vs. Virginia Tech (10-4) at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland
Sept. 9: East Carolina (3-9)
Sept. 16: Delaware State (0-11)
Big 12 home games
Oct. 14: Texas Tech (5-7)
Oct. 28: Oklahoma State (10-3)
Nov. 4: Iowa State (3-9)
Nov. 18: Texas (5-7)
Big 12 road games
Sept. 23: at Kansas (2-10)
Oct. 7: at TCU (6-7)
Oct. 21: at Baylor (7-6)
Nov. 11: at Kansas State (9-4)
Nov. 25: at Oklahoma (11-2)
Gut-check time: The Mountaineers don’t play consecutive games against teams that finished with a winning record last year until the end of October. And then, Oklahoma State visits Morgantown. WVU gets the Cowboys in the midst of what will likely be Oklahoma State’s defining stretch. They play at Texas in Week 8 and host Oklahoma in Week 10, two chances for Mike Gundy to exert superiority over coaching newbies at the Big 12’s flagship programs. In between, West Virginia earns a shot to knock the Pokes down a notch. But in this matchup of coaches who earned new contracts for their 2016 success, if WVU and Dana Holgorsen fall flat on Oct. 28, November might be a struggle.
Trap game: What did we just say about the final month of the season? It’s tricky, that’s for sure, with trips to Kansas State and Oklahoma sandwiched around a visit from Texas. The Longhorns are going to win a game or two in 2017. This late-season meeting with the Mountaineers might just fall into that category. Flush with talent, Texas ought not to be overlooked by any opponent. WVU likely won’t, and even that may not prevent the Mountaineers from falling into a pre-Thanksgiving trap.
Snoozer: West Virginia’s Week 3 foe, Delaware State, has won one game over the past two seasons -- a one-point victory in the 2015 finale over Howard. The Hornets lost 79-0 last year to Missouri, which WVU beat. They lost in 2015 to the D-II Chowan Hawks. And don’t confuse Delaware State for Delaware, which thumped its in-state rival by six touchdowns in 2016. No need to wake up for this one.
Final analysis: Thank goodness for that Sunday night opener outside of Washington, D.C. If not for the enticing regional clash with Virginia Tech, what opportunity would new West Virginia QB Will Grier have to prove his talent against a high-end defense in the first half of the season? Really, that’s not fair to Kansas, which defended the pass well last year, or TCU, which appears strong on paper but failed to play like it last season. Nevertheless, West Virginia, despite losing a lot up front on defense, could mask its weaknesses well and enter late October with a sparkling record. More big tests, clearly, come in the final five weeks.