No longer will we say football is almost here.
It is here.
In just a few short weeks, West Virginia will open the 2018 season in Charlotte against the Volunteers. And though looking ahead is not often advised, let’s take a look at just how difficult each game will be for the Mountaineers in 2018.
From the least worrisome to the most difficult, here are West Virginia’s toughest games in 2018.
No. 11 Kansas (October 6th)
It’s Kansas, guys. Not too much to worry about here. One day, Kansas will have a competitive football team. It just won’t be anytime soon.
No. 10 Youngstown State (September 8th)
In no way shape or form will the Penguins upend the Mountaineers in Morgantown. But not too long ago, head coach Bo Pelini was at the helm of a power five program. And Youngstown State recently played for a FCS national title in 2016. Although a division lower than West Virginia, the Penguins will still put up a fight.
No. 9 Baylor (October 25th)
Matt Rhule is tasked with restoring a program’s reputation off the field just as much as he is on it. Baylor may never return to what it was 5 years ago and it definitely won’t happen this year. The Bears put up quite a fight in last season’s contest in Waco, however, and it seems Baylor has recruited relatively well under Rhule.
No. 8 at Texas Tech (September 29th)
Head coach Kliff Kingsbury doesn’t believe in defense. And given West Virginia boasts arguably the best offense in college football, it should be a barn burner when these two teams meet in Lubbock. The winds in west Texas have always played tricks on the Mountaineers, so the Red Raiders at least have that going for them.
No. 7 Kansas State (September 22nd)
As long as Bill Snyder roams the sidelines for the Wildcats, Kansas State will have an above average football team. Being one of the most disciplined teams in all of college football, Kansas State never beats itself. West Virginia will win this game, but don’t be surprised if it’s a lot closer than we’d like.
No. 6 TCU (November 10th) & at Oklahoma State (November 17th)
The decision to rank these two match-ups was difficult enough to just let it be a tie. Both Oklahoma State and Texas Christian have proved troublesome for the Mountaineers after dropping both contests a season ago. Both are also tasked with replacing two stud quarterbacks (Mason Rudolph, Kenny Hill) from last year but have enough offensive talent to post respectable numbers. The Horned Frogs return 9 starters on defense and the Cowboys have the Big XII’s returning rusher in Justice Hill.
No. 5 at NC State (September 15th)
Most Mountaineer fans know very little of North Carolina State. The Wolfpack finished 9-4 last season and coupled that with a top-40 recruiting class for the upcoming season. It goes without saying, head coach Dave Doeren has his program on the up-and-up. NC State produced 7 picks in this year’s draft but returns stud signal caller Ryan Finley. Finley’s name has been tossed around with Will Grier’s as the best passer in 2018. Add the fact that the Mountaineers have to travel to what will be a hostile environment in Raleigh and this contest becomes all the more daunting.
No. 4 at Texas (November 3rd)
Blame it on Will Grier’s injury if you must, but last year’s loss to the Longhorns was a small sign of things to come for Texas. Head coach Tom Herman may be one of the best young coaches in college football and has made great progress towards recruiting exceptional athletes for his program. Texas is a capable quarterback away from competing for a conference title. If they find the right quarterback during fall camp, the Mountaineers’ trip to Austin in November may be an unpleasant one.
No. 3 at Iowa State (October 13th)
Often an afterthought in the Big XII, head coach Matt Campbell has transformed his Cyclones into a tough, hard-nosed team that wreaked havoc on the conference’s elite last season. Iowa State took down Oklahoma and TCU last year before falling the Mountaineers in Morgantown 20-16. West Virginia will have to travel to Ames in 2018 and if Campbell can reload his team properly, it will prove to be a difficult game for the Mountaineers.
No. 2 Tennessee (September 1st)
Don’t fool yourself – Tennessee is still an SEC team and new Head Coach Jeremy Pruitt comes form the Nick Saban coaching tree. The Volunteers have superb talent sprinkled throughout the roster and now, a more than capable coaching staff to guide them. It’s not just Tennessee’s football team, however, that will prove to be a challenge for the Mountaineers. It’s the fact that it’s the season opener on a neutral field. And for the most part, who knows what the Vols will really look like. Such is the reality when a new coach comes in and installs his own system. West Virginia should win this game. But don’t expect a Jeremy Pruitt led team to roll over when the going gets tough.
No. 1 Oklahoma (November 23rd)
The last game of the season for West Virginia could very well serve as a play-in game for the Big XII Championship. More so, the Mountaineers have never beaten Oklahoma as members of the Big XII. The Sooners are the conference’s cream of the crop, a perennial playoff contender and so forth and so on. Although Baker Mayfield no longer takes snaps for the Sooners, former 5-star QB Kyler Murray might be just as lethal as the former Heisman winner. Oklahoma returns its entire receiving corps just for good measure. Historically, the Sooners have been the Mountaineers greatest foe. This season will be no different.