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The Future of West Virginia Mountaineer Football

A lot can change in five years. What does the future hold for the West Virginia Mountianeers over the next five seasons?

TCU v West Virginia Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Hello, Smoking Musket reader,

My name is John Lowe. I am a Morgantown native and current West Virginia University student (journalism major, class of 2019) who has been writing for the Musket since last August. I also work for the Associated Press and have had the opportunity to cover a lot of WVU games over the past two years. I even got a sarcastic response from Bill Self after we beat them last season:

ME: “Coach, this is your third straight loss to West Virginia in Morgantown. Is there something about Morgantown—(interrupts me)”

Thank you Blue Gold News for getting that on camera!

I have been a lifelong fan of the Mountaineers, even through the highs and lows that it comes with. I was at Mountaineer Field when we lost to a certain team by four points, but I was also there when we beat Baylor 70-63 five years later.

A lot can change in five years. Five years ago, we were fresh off of a dominating Orange Bowl win over Dabo Swinney’s overrated Clemson Tigers and on the horizon of a joining the Big 12. At the time, the Big 12 was the land of milk and honey after having to deal with the mediocrity of the Big East.

We have since gone through a bit of a rebuilding process as Dana Holgorsen has made the transition from a coordinator to head coach, all the while trying to carve a niche for West Virginia in the Big 12.

So what do we have in store over the next five years? Dana’s contract takes us through the 2021 season, so let’s see what we could have happen between now and then.

DISCLAIMER: While this will be mostly educated predictions over the next five years, I will be inserting some “WVU Football fan fiction” to keep things entertaining and fresh.

2017: Hello Will Grier, Goodbye Baylor

2017 Schedule

September 3 vs. Virginia Tech (Landover, MD)
September 9 East Carolina
September 16 Delaware State
September 23 at Kansas
October 7 at TCU
October 14 Texas Tech
October 21 at Baylor
October 28 Oklahoma State
November 4 Iowa State
November 11 at Kansas State
Novmeber 18 Texas
November 25 at Oklahoma

Predicted Record: 11-1 (8-1 Big 12)

Postseason? Beats Oklahoma in Big 12 Championship; Beats LSU in the Cotton Bowl

We start out with this year. As we all know, the season hinges on the eligibility of Will Grier for the first six games. If we have him, we could have a special season. If not, then we’re looking at “Skyler Howard Lite” for the first six games with David Isreal.

Let’s say that he plays. I like that possibility better.

We start out against Virginia Tech. God, I hate them. I almost hate them worse than Pitt.

It will be a tough game, they are ACC contenders for sure, but I say WVU pulls it out with a final score of 35-27.

The Mountaineers enter the AP Poll in the upper 20s and gradually climb near the top 15 as they breeze past East Carolina, Delaware State and Kansas. Neither ESPN or Fox really pay much attention to us because we’re West Virginia and that’s how that goes.

The judgement game comes after the bye week at TCU. Will Grier manages to just out-duel Kenny Hill in Fort Worth for the win and the respect that WVU finally deserves.

After wins over Texas Tech and Baylor, the Mountaineers are 7-0 and are set to host Oklahoma State, also 7-0. College Gameday returns to the Mountainlair Green and Corso picks West Virginia (FINALLY!!). He ends up being right as the defense does enough to limit Mason Rudolph and James Washington to make the Mountaineers the Big 12 favorite.

The Mountaineers then enter the top 10 in the College Football Playoff rankings, and steadily climb up to about 7 with wins over Iowa State, Kansas State, and the rebuilding project of Texas. It sets up a two game series with Oklahoma. The first game in Norman on Thanksgiving weekend. Despite a highly competitive game, with Martell Pettaway and Justin Crawford leading the charge in a heavy ground game, the Mountaineers drop the first game.

The second game against the Sooners take place in the Big 12 Championship in Jerry World. The Mountaineers exact revenge to clinch a Cotton Bowl bid against LSU, which WVU also wins.

NCAA Football: Alabama vs Southern California
WVU will look to bookend the 2017 holiday season with visits to AT&T Stadium in Arlington
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Off the field, the Big 12 finally gets tired of all the sick stories coming out of Baylor and kicks them out of the conference. They are replaced with Houston and the Big 12 expands to BYU and Cincinnati. The conference splits into two divisions, North (BYU, Cincy, Iowa St., Kansas, K-State, WVU) and South (Houston, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech). Oklahoma and TCU become West Virginia’s permanent cross-division rivals.

The Big 12 also announces a reduced eight-game conference schedule, so the Mountaineers schedule Pitt, who postponed their home and home with UCF to accommodate the Backyard Brawl.

2018: Backyard Brawls and Playoffs

2018 Schedule

September 1 vs. Tennessee (Charlotte, NC)*
September 8 Youngstown State*
September 15 at NC State*
September 29 at BYU
October 6 Kansas State
October 13 Houston
October 20 Oklahoma
October 27 TCU
November 3 at Cincinnati
November 10 Kansas
November 17 at Iowa State
November 24 at Pitt

*games that have actually been scheduled

Predicted Record: 11-1 (7-1 Big 12)

Postseason? Beats Oklahoma State in Big 12 Championship; Loses to Ohio State in Orange Bowl

Will Grier’s second and final year begins in the Queen City against Tennessee. That Grier-Sills connection that has now become legendary across the country reaps havoc on the Volunteer defense and West Virginia cruises to a big win in Bank of America Stadium over an SEC school.

After pummeling Bo Pelini and the Youngstown State Penguins, the Mountaineers will return to the Tar Heel State to take on traditional ACC cellar dweller NC State. A sellout crowd in Raleigh watches their Wolfpack take a beating at the hands of WVU.

From Tobacco Road, the Mountaineers head to Provo to welcome BYU to the Big 12. In a game similar to the one two years before, a BYU interception (this time at the hands of Tanner Mangum) gives West Virginia the win for the quick 4-0 start.

Wins over Houston and Kansas State make WVU quickly bowl eligible going into another College Gameday visit to Morgantown for their matchup against Oklahoma. The Mountaineers drop another game at home to the Sooners and move forward 6-1 and a top 15 ranking.

Grier tosses for about 350 yards against TCU en route to an easy win at Mountaineer Field. West Virginia then smears Cincinnati, Kansas and Iowa State to move to 10-1 on the season and cruise to the Big 12 North title.

The Backyard Brawl returns on Thanksgiving weekend at Heinz Field (60% of which is full of WVU fans by the way). The Mountaineers smash Pitt without their USC transfer QB Max Browne, so it’s on to Arlington for the Big 12 Championship.

Miami v Pittsburgh
Imagine...a Pitt game that people will actually go to
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

West Virginia clinches their second straight Big 12 championship with a win over Mike Gundy and his glorious mullet. The Mountaineers’ tougher schedule and 12-1 record gives them a spot in the College Football Playoff to play Ohio State in the Orange Bowl.

Dana Holgorsen, now the longest tenured coach in Morgantown since Don Nehlen, cannot out-wit Urban Meyer in South Beach. Buckeyes QB Stephen Collier goes nuts and Ohio State advances to the National Championship where they beat Alabama in Nick Saban’s last game as a head coach.

Dana gets offers from Notre Dame and Arkansas, but turns them down because his son, Logan, has committed to WVU.

2019: The Quiet Before The Storm

2019 Schedule

August 31 James Madison*
September 7 at Missouri*
September 14 NC State*
September 28 at Oklahoma
October 5 BYU
October 19 at Oklahoma State
October 26 Cincinnati
November 2 at TCU
November 9 at Kansas
November 16 at Kansas State
November 23 Iowa State
November 30 Pitt

*games that have actually been scheduled

Predicted Record: 8-4 (4-4 Big 12)

Postseason? Beats Louisville in Camping World Bowl

First change for the 2019 season is the jerseys. At this point, the coal pick-ax inspired jerseys have run their course and it’s time to move on. I imagine that they’d be similar to Miami’s new unis. Classic, but still look fresh somehow.

Oklahoma v West Virginia
These jerseys for WVU lasted six seasons (2007-2012), the same would be for the coal pick-ax inspired ones after the 2018 season
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

After leading the Mountaineers to an appearance in the College Football Playoff, Will Grier has moved on to the NFL. So, WVU goes through a bit of a slump year in 2019.

David Isreal takes over at quarterback and initially looks impressive against James Madison, Missouri, and NC State. The Mountaineers move into the top 15 and Isreal enters early Heisman talks.

From here, West Virginia drops four of their next seven games. Isreal can’t manage a full four quarters in Norman, Stillwater, Fort Worth, or Manhattan.

The Backyard Brawl returns to Morgantown under unsure times. The Mountaineers are 7-4 and believe it or not, Pitt is actually decent under Pat Narduzzi. The ACC Coastal champs march into Mountaineer Field all cocky, but WVU manages to send the Panthers back to the Steel City with their tails between their legs, just like ten years earlier.

The win over Pitt gives West Virginia a berth in everybody’s favorite Florida bowl game, the Camping World Bowl (formally the Russell Athletic Bowl) against Louisville.

The Mountaineers manage to crush the Cards, but most fans across the state are already clamoring for the next season as Logan Holgorsen is projected to be the starting quarterback in 2020, after redshirting in 2019.

2020: To The Promised Land

2020 Schedule

September 5 vs. Florida State (Atlanta, GA)*
September 12 at East Carolina*
September 19 Maryland*
October 3 at BYU
October 10 Oklahoma
October 17 Texas
October 24 at Cincinnati
October 31 TCU
November 7 Kansas State
November 14 Kansas
November 21 at Iowa State
November 28 at Pitt

*games that have actually been scheduled

Predicted Record: 12-0 (8-0 Big 12)

Postseason? Beats Texas in the Big 12 Championship; Beats LSU in the Sugar Bowl; Beats USC in the National Championship

The most memorable season in Mountaineer history begins at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta against the Florida State Seminoles. It’s the kind of story that ESPN loves. Freshman QB vs. traditional power.

WVU crushes Jimbo Fisher and Florida State in a huge upset to start the season. The Mountaineers enter the Top 5 in Week 2.

After dominating wins over East Carolina, Maryland, and BYU, the Mountaineers host Oklahoma. Now in their ninth season in the Big 12, WVU has still never beaten the Sooners in Morgantown. That changes with Logan Holgorsen behind center. West Virginia beats Oklahoma 48-27 to climb to number one in the AP Top 25.

WVU follows the era-defining win with another impressive victory over Texas. Under Tom Herman, the Longhorns have been restored to near-2005 levels of power. So it’s kind of a big deal.

After five straight wins over Cincinnati, TCU, Kansas State, Kansas, and Iowa State to make WVU 11-0 and two wins away from the number one seed in the College Football Playoff.

No let downs this time.

Logan Holgorsen tosses for 400 passing yards in the 49-7 win over Pitt at Heinz Field and even throws it back by mocking the kittens from Forbes Ave.

Next, with a College Football Playoff appearance nearly clinched, the Mountaineers smash Texas in Arlington to clinch their third Big 12 title in four seasons and a Sugar Bowl bid against LSU.

In the Sugar Bowl, Dana Holgorsen and Jake Spavital pick apart Ed Orgeron’s Tiger defense in what was basically a road game for WVU. Tony Gibson’s defense does just enough against LSU to give the Mountaineers the win and their first national title appearance since 1988.

In the national championship, the opponent is Southern Cal. The game is in Las Vegas, so it’s basically another road game for West Virginia.

The game itself is very similar to this past year’s Rose Bowl, but this time it ends up not being a happy ending for the Trojans and West Virginia wins its first-ever national championship.

2021: The Championship Hangover

2021 Schedule

September 4 at Maryland*
September 11 Indiana State*
September 18 Virginia Tech*
September 25 at Oklahoma
October 2 BYU
October 16 Cincinnati
October 23 at TCU
October 30 at Texas Tech
November 6 at Kansas
November 13 at Kansas State
November 20 Iowa State
November 27 Pitt

*games that have actually been scheduled

Predicted Record: 10-2 (6-2 Big 12)

Postseason? Loses to Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship; Loses to Oregon in the Alamo Bowl

In 2021, the Mountaineers slide back a little to a 10-4 record with losses to Oklahoma (twice), Kansas State, and Oregon in the Alamo Bowl. Everyone is still talking about West Virginia’s national championship, so the sting of a disappointing season is softened somewhat.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this optimistic peak into the future. Also, it’s been a pleasure to write these kind of articles for you guys. Be sure to check out what we have in store this summer and fall here at the Musket.

As we always say on our podcasts and live shows,