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What would an independent West Virginia football schedule look like?

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What if the Mountaineers had the money to not need conference membership? Would traditional rivals return to Morgantown?

Pittsburgh v West Virginia Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Last month, Syracuse’s SB Nation blog (Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician) wrote a couple of articles about what the Orange’s ideal non-conference opponents should be and did a follow up on an ideal independent schedule.

In that spirit, I decided to do the same thing with West Virginia. Feel free to add any thoughts in the comment section below or on social media.

ANNUAL OPPONENTS

In a perfect world, these games would happen every year without question or complaint.

PITT PANTHERS

Pittsburgh v West Virginia Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

SERIES HISTORY

This one’s a no-brainer. The Backyard Brawl is a time honored tradition that had been played since 1896 and annually from 1944-2011. It is absolutely wrong that the schools won’t get together to play again until 2022. So it’s on the schedule and WOULD ALWAYS BE PLAYED ON THANKSGIVING WEEKEND.

SYRACUSE ORANGE

Kyle McIntosh Photo by Getty Images

SERIES HISTORY

John Cassillo at TNIAAM put this in his article laying out West Virginia as an ideal opponent of Syracuse:

Despite our current #OrangeEagle rivalry, West Virginia might just be our longest, consistent football rivalry. Of course, they also have bigger fish to fry (Pitt, Virginia Tech), so it’s never had the sense of being THE RIVALRY game we’ve craved. There is a trophy and all, though. So replaying this one does have some stakes. SU stumbled for a bit here in the early 2000s, but has since won three straight (and the last two in resounding fashion).

Cassillo’s humble brag aside, I always considered Syracuse a serious rival, granted it had nothing on Pitt or Virginia Tech. When WVU stopped playing the Hokies in 2005, I always thought that the Orange were a great replacement at the #2 spot between 2006 and 2012.

I would love to see them back on the schedule.

PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS

Charleston Gazette-Mail

SERIES HISTORY

I know the series was lopsided for a long time, but I honestly think that these two programs are nearly at the same level. Instead of WVU winning an average of one game for every six games, I think it’s a lot more evenly matched. The Major Harris days proved that. We’ll see in 2023 if we’re still evenly matched.

MARYLAND TERRAPINS

West Virginia v Maryland Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

SERIES HISTORY

At one point, Maryland was our longest non-conference series, playing every year between 1980 and 2007. It’s always been the measuring stick for the rest of our season and it’s always sweet to beat ‘em.

VIRGINIA TECH HOKIES

Will Furrer Photo by Getty Images

SERIES HISTORY

Of course the Battle for the Black Diamond would be an annual affair. The Frank Beamer teams gave this series a little more fire starting in the late 80s and early 90s, and remaining hot until 2005 when the series ended. Needless to say, we’re all looking forward to Labor Day weekend to see this one for real.

RUTGERS SCARLET KNIGHTS

Rutgers Scarlet Knights v West Virginia Mountaineers Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

SERIES HISTORY

It’s nice to have a traditional match up that we always win, so I’d add Rutgers into the annual series category. The Mountaineers and the Scarlet Knights met on the gridiron every season from 1980 to 2011. Also, we have a lot of students from New Jersey...so yeah.

RECURRING OPPONENTS

After the six regularly scheduled match-ups, I’d add four more recurring opponents. It’s not vital that WVU face these schools every season, but knowing they would be around the corner would be ideal. These eight teams that are listed have been thoroughly discussed by everyone here at the Musket and reasons for them being listed range anywhere from tradition to "just because."

VIRGINIA CAVALIERS

Pittsburgh v Virginia Photo By Craig Jones/Getty Images

SERIES HISTORY

2002 Continental Tire Bowl halftime show. That fuels enough hate for me personally, but if you need an additional reason, WVU already competes against them in just about every other sport so football would be a logical series to add.

MIAMI HURRICANES

Big East Football Photo By Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

SERIES HISTORY

The Russell Athletic Bowl was only the latest edition in what has been a fairly one-sided series with The U. This recurring series would be more about recruiting possibilities than tradition. That being said, the 1993 meeting and "The Run" in 2003 have been woven into the rich tapestry of West Virginia football history.

LOUISVILLE CARDINALS

West Virginia Mountaineers v Louisville Cardinals Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

SERIES HISTORY

This more modern version of the Hatfield-McCoy fued has entertained fans all over the country during the mid-2000s success of the Big East. The triple-overtime match-up in 2005 that introduced the world to Pat White is widely recognized as the best comeback in Mountaineer history and the 2006 game between top 5 teams helped solidify the future of ESPN’s Thursday Night College Football.

NC STATE WOLFPACK

Champs Sports Bowl - West Virginia v North Carolina State Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

SERIES HISTORY

This would be a pretty fun series in my opinion. It would be a fairly easy trip for fans in Beckley and Bluefield as well as alumni in the Piedmont Triad, Charlotte and Richmond areas. Plus, WVU and NC State have an interesting history highlighted mostly by bowl games.

OKLAHOMA SOONERS

Oklahoma v West Virginia Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

SERIES HISTORY

I enjoy this series way too much to give it up. I know the Mountaineers have had trouble competing against Oklahoma in the Big 12 era, but West Virginia typically gives the Sooners a pretty good game. Also, the 1982 upset and the 2008 Fiesta Bowl are landmarks in WVU football history.

TCU HORNED FROGS

TCU v West Virginia Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

SERIES HISTORY

The same goes with this series. It’s just way too fun. Our Big 12 expansion cousins have given us a great game just about every season. Plus there is a pretty good chance that we would have seen the Horned Frogs on our schedule if we had stayed in the Big East since they were originally slated to join in 2012.

GEORGIA TECH YELLOW JACKETS

Georgia Tech v West Virginia Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images

SERIES HISTORY

I thought this one might be interesting. The series could appeal to recruits in Atlanta and all over the South.

Also, remember when we came back to defeat the Megatron-led Ramblin’ Wreck in the 2007 Gator Bowl? That was awesome...

LSU TIGERS

LSU v West Virginia Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

SERIES HISTORY

Why not? Let’s humiliate the S-E-C

OTHER SCHOOLS CONSIDERED: Boston College, Kentucky, Texas, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Florida State, Wake Forest, Michigan, Georgia, Tennessee, Arizona

TWO REMAINING SCHEDULE OPENINGS

We have two more openings in the schedule (six regular opponents, four recurring opponents). This would be mainly for local teams that just aren’t quite power teams yet and some that never will be.

GROUP OF FIVE OPPONENTS

West Virginia v Cincinnati Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images
  • Temple Owls

WVU and Temple were charter members of the Big East football conference in 1991. Plus, the Owls have come a long way since being removed from the conference in 2004. (SERIES HISTORY)

  • East Carolina Pirates

The Mountaineers have had a long standing friendly rivalry with the Pirates and even played eight consecutive games between 2002 and 2009. (SERIES HISTORY)

  • Cincinnati Bearcats

Mountaineer Field’s first game came against Cincinnati. Also, matchups between the Bearcats and WVU were pretty entertaining back when the Big East title flowed between the two schools. (SERIES HISTORY)

  • Navy Midshipmen

WVU and Navy don’t have much of a history together (although a Roger Staubach-led Mishipmen team came to Morgantown in 1963 as part of the state’s centennial), but this one would be fun anyway. The Middies have gotten pretty good under Ken Niumatalolo and Annapolis is a great town to travel to. (SERIES HISTORY)

  • South Florida Bulls

This series was probably a little more evenly matched than most of us wanted it to be. A series with USF would be pretty cool, mainly for two reasons. Charlie Strong and showing off to recruits. Plus, a road trip to Tampa Bay is better than a road trip to Manhattan, Kansas. (SERIES HISTORY)

  • Bowling Green Falcons

May the Don Nehlen Bowl commence!!! (SERIES HISTORY)

"CUPCAKES"

James Madison v West Virginia Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

We’d leave this slot open to allow FCS teams play WVU for cash. These teams could include:

  • Richmond Spiders
  • James Madison Dukes
  • Youngstown State Penguins
  • Villanova Wildcats
  • William & Mary Tribe
  • VMI Keydets
  • Duquesne Dukes
  • Marshall Thundering Herd
  • Robert Morris Colonials