<
>

Schedule analysis: West Virginia

It's time to finish our 2011 schedule analysis series with a look at West Virginia's lineup:

West Virginia Mountaineers

Nonconference opponents (with 2010 records):

Sept. 3: Marshall (5-7)

Sept. 10: Norfolk State (6-5)

Sept. 17: at Maryland (9-4)

Sept. 24: LSU (11-2)

Oct. 1: Bowling Green (2-10)

Big East home games

Oct. 8: Connecticut

Nov. 5: Louisville

Nov. 25: Pittsburgh

Big East road games

Oct. 22: at Syracuse

Oct. 29: at Rutgers

Nov. 12: at Cincinnati

Dec. 1: at South Florida

Gut-check time: Bring on the Bayou Bengals. LSU could easily be a top-5 team when it comes to Morgantown on Sept. 24. The crowd and atmosphere should be electric, and it will be West Virginia's opportunity to prove it belongs in the national discussion.

Trap game: At Maryland. Not only is it the week before the LSU game, it's on the road. And new Terps coach Randy Edsall will be very familiar with the Mountaineers' personnel.

Snoozer: Bowling Green. Whatever happens against Maryland and LSU, people will still be talking about those games when the lowly Falcons come to town.

Good luck with that: West Virginia has to play four of its final six Big East games on the road, including that finale in Tampa that could end up being the de facto conference championship game.

Upset watch: LSU had better be on high alert. I don't think Marshall will come as close to pulling off the upset as it did in last year's overtime game in Huntington.

Final analysis: The Mountaineers and their fans feel like they belong in the national elite. This is a schedule that can get them there. Those back-to-back games against Maryland and LSU will determine whether this is a top-10-type of team or just another Big East also-ran. The good news is the LSU game is at home and West Virginia had a fairly easy time against the Terrapins last season. The other three nonleague games shouldn't cause too much anxiety.

The Big East schedule is backloaded with road games, and the Mountaineers have always had trouble at USF. But if Dana Holgorsen's offense is the real deal and this team is ready to take the next step, it can handle it.