According to sources, the Big 12 plans to move quickly to replace OU and Texas - they plan to invite Cincinnati, Houston, BYU and UCF as replacements. For the Mountaineers, this is exciting as the move to expand to 12 teams offers fans something we have not had a chance to experience ever in a conference - DIVISIONS! When the Mountaineers joined the Big East in 1991, the conference only had 7 other teams and thus the teams played everyone and a winner was chosen based on records and tie-breakers. After Miami, VT and BC broke the hearts of fans and left for the ACC, the Big East simply replaced parts and remained a small conference. When the Mountaineers broke away from the Big East and chose to enter the Big 12, the conference foolishly did not bring it Louisville and someone else to remain at 12, instead shrunk to 10 teams - despite keeping the name BIG 12.
Now, more than 30 years since the team began playing football in a conference, the team has a chance to add to its trophy stack - divisional winner. With the expansion of the Big 12 back to 12 teams, divisions are a near necessity. Its almost a given that the league will split into some sort of Eastern and Western divisions, dividing teams along the midwest line of the country. Let’s see how this could play out.
Big 12 Divisions
In this scenario, we’ve split the conference down the line between Lawrence and Manhattan. This gives us as much of a true geographical alignment as possible. It’s unknown if the league will mandate an 8-game schedule or a 9-game schedule but for the sake of this article, let’s assume an 8-game schedule. If I were speaking for WVU, I would push for an 8-game schedule for the simple fact we can get an extra home game. An extra home game is worth several million to the school. It also means even number of home and away trips in conference. Everyone does 4. It makes life easy.
Personal opinion - I think this current setup works out nicely for the Mountaineers. You have ISU as the big contender in your division and historically they have not been a tough matchup. They are currently and if Matt Campbell stays that becomes a problem but if he doesn’t, you like to think the Mountaineers are positioned well to maintain dominance in that division.
Civil War Divisions
Big 12 Divisions - Civil War
In this scenario, the Mountaineers have the dubious task of traveling to BYU every other year, but again, with Kansas and Kansas State on the slate, along with ISU, the Mountaineers should be a top contender yearly.
These are the two scenarios that would make the most sense, so feel free to throw them out the window and do your own crazy Big 12 Conference divisions, since that is likely what Bob Bowlsby is going to do. Take a crayon and draw lines on a map to find your own Big 12 divisions.
Regarding scheduling, if the conference stays with an 8-game schedule, teams would play all five of their interdivisional opponents and then three teams from the other division. One team from the other division would be designated as a “yearly rival” and would always be played, while the other two teams would get a home-and-home before switching to the next teams.
For the Mountaineers, this would give the team the ability to schedule 4 out of conference games. The schedule that works best for the Mountaineers in my opinion is one big Power 5 game to kick off the season, a FCS team for Fan Day, and two G5 games. If the Mountaineers are able to keep everything regional that would give West Virginia up to 7 home games plus a neutral site game that fans could plan a season around. If the schools lined up you could even play more Power 5 schools like Pitt and VT and Maryland to satiate the need to play real rivals.