Many, many things have happened since WVU lost to Syracuse in Orlando in December of 2018 (note: everything goes wrong in Orlando). Some of those bad, a lot of those good, but everything adds up to make this a most-curious season of West Virginia football.
The Smoking Musket staff each ranked the games on the 2019 schedule based on which ones give each of us the most tingles. Our aggregate rankings are below.
1. Texas (Week 6)—1.6
Is this a rivalry? I doubt Texas fans would think so but I’m sure they have revenge on their minds heading into Morgantown this year. It seems like these two teams always play a game that excites partial and neutral fans and this year should be no different. Not only is this the biggest conference game at home, but it’s also Homecoming Week for WVU. Expect at least two Horns Down penalties to aid and assuage the snowflakes from Austin.
2. Iowa State (Week 7)—4
Definitely a rivalry matchup, the Riot Bowl is the game with the second-most excitement heading into the season. Last year, the Cyclones ruined our season on a cold October night and the Mountaineers will look to repay the favor with some Mountain Dew-fueled fans at home.
3. N.C. State (Week 3)—4.4
We will get our first look at Brown’s team in the season opener in week one, but Mountaineer fans should circle September 14. The first major home game against the Wolfpack should set the tone for both teams’ seasons, as a loss here could derail the post-season hopes of both teams.
4. Oklahoma State (Week 13)—5.4
When OK State rolls into Morgantown in mid-November, the hope is that both teams will be fighting for some sort of postseason position. The Cowboys truly derailed WVU’s run to the Big 12 title game in 2018; this game could be key for WVU’s bowl chances and possibly for OK State’s place in the conference championship game. Really, though, WVU should be looking to break a streak of four losses in a row to the orange-clad Pokes.
5. @ Baylor (Week 10)—5.6
I personally ranked this as my most-anticipated game of the season, but most of the staff disagreed with me. Baylor is the hipster favorite to make the BIg 12 Football Championship and I would love nothing more than to spoil that for them. It’s also Halloween Thursday in Waco, which is sufficient excitement to be the most-anticipated road game of 2019.
6. @ Oklahoma (Week 8)—6.2
The Musket staff was split on this game. Many of us see this trip to Norman as a death-row walk but some see this as the marquee game of the season, too. I speak for the majority saying we’re tired of hyping ourselves up for the OU-WVU game only to be majorly disappointed.
7. @ Missouri (Week 2)—6.4
High-profile non-conference games defined the Dana Holgorsen era and Brown will get his chance to make a huge statement early in his tenure on Sept. 7. That said, I think the staff are both excited for but also scared of this matchup against what should be a much-improved Missouri team from the last time.
8. @ TCU (Week 14)—6.4
The final week of the season features the annual matchup of Big East refugees. TCU is a bit of a mystery this year, other than having a good defense. If we felt more confident in WVU’s team, this game may have more excitement, but looking at it now, it’s hard to imagine either team making this game watchable.
9. James Madison (Week 1)—7.6
The first game of the Neal Brown era at WVU will certainly bring a lot of excitement but it’s still against an FCS opponent. That said, the game is sold out and James Madison is a known Power 5 killer, so this game clearly has some anticipation built-in it regardless of Brown’s unveiling his first-every Mountaineer football team.
10. Texas Tech (Week 11)—7.8
Surprisingly, the Battle for the John Denver Trophy is one of the least-anticipated matchups of the season. Or, maybe not, as both teams are breaking in new coaches and the prognostication on Tech is unclear. If Brown wants to prove he was the right hire, it would do him well to beat a fellow first-year Big 12 head coach at home on Nov. 9.
11. Kansas (Week 4)—10.8
This is not the least-anticipated conference game for the first time since I’ve done these power rankings. Why? Les Miles. I think we’re just all slightly more excited to see the Mad Hatter come to Morgantown than any other KU coach we’ve played.
12. @ Kansas State (Week 12)—11.2
Though WVU may need to win this game to secure bowl eligibility—or at least keep that hope—this game brings little more than the excitement of two teams playing under new head coaches. It will be weird playing at Bill Snyder Family Stadium without the Windbreaker Wizard on the sideline.
Which game gets you most excited?