Here's an early look at WVU football's conference schedule. Check out the first part of the WVU schedule preview, on WVU's nonconference opponents, here.
Oct. 14 - South Florida - Mountaineer Field, Morgantown, W.Va.
The Big East schedule is off to a blazing start with the South Florida Bulls. No team has given the Mountaineers more fits over the last five years than the Bulls. They built their whole "program-on-the-rise" thing on beating the Mountaineers. Last year USF quarterback B.J. Daniels came off the bench as a frosh and torched the Mountaineers with his arm and his feet. I’m sure the defense remembers, and I hope Jeff Casteel has something up his sleeve to stymie Daniels. This one’s in prime time under the bright lights of a rockin’ Mountaineer Field on a Thursday night. That means the Mountie faithful will be oiled up and ready to go. It could be what it takes to put the ‘Eers over the top.
Oct. 23 - Syracuse - Mountaineer Field, Morgantown, W.Va.
Ahhhhhhh…. The Orange. How the mighty have fallen. The school of Jim Brown and Ernie Davis and Donovan McNabb just isn’t what it once was. When people kick around Big East football, the Orange must shoulder the bulk of the blame. They’re one of the league’s marquee teams historically, but they’ve been historically awful lately. Doug Marrone will get the job done in the Dome someday, but this year the Orange will still be a work in progress. They won’t be starting a Duke point guard under center, so that’s a start, but I expect the Mountaineers to roll through the Orange D with ease. It’s the kind of game that could be a confidence builder for Geno Smith.
Oct. 29 - at Connecticut - Rentschler Field, East Hartford, Conn.
Another national TV weekday night game for the ‘Eers, this time on the road at Rentschler Field in East Hartford. While the Orange are the northeastern football program in decline, the Huskies are on the rise. With at least eight wins in four out of the last six seasons, this blogger is convinced that UConn will eventually get it done and build a program that competes nationally year in and year out. This year they’re one of the three favorites to win the whole league, so this will potentially be the season’s most crucial road tilt. Win it, and the ‘Eers are in the driver’s seat to challenge Pitt for the Big East crown. Lose it, and they could be the team on the outside looking in.
Nov. 13 - Cincinnati - Mountaineer Field, Morgantown, W.Va.
Last year’s Mountaineers could have ended up in a BCS bowl if they had been able to get it done on the road in the Queen City. They came close, so very close, but that doesn’t win football games. Cincinnati loses the head coach and the NFL-bound talent that propelled the Bearcats to back-to-back conference titles, but don’t count out this year’s squad. Former WVU assistant Butch Jones is at the helm and QB Zach Collaros will be a dual threat to run and throw his team to victory. This one could be the most entertaining game Morgantown sees all year. If it’s half as dramatic as their last two meetings, the ‘Eers and ‘Cats will be battling until the last second ticks from the clock.
Nov. 20 - at Louisville - Papa John's Stadium, Louisville, Ky.
Louisville’s turn as the conference’s "it" program was brief, and the hole that the Kragthorpe era dug for the Cards won’t be easy to get out of. That said, this one defines "trap game." Nestled between Cincinnati and Pitt, let’s hope Stewart has his troops focused on the task at hand. Laying an egg against the Birds could ruin any shot the ‘Eers have at a conference title. I don’t expect it, since Louisville has been astonishingly bad since Bobby Petrino bolted, but stranger things have happened to the Mountaineers.
Nov. 26 - at Pittsburgh - Heinz Field, Pittsburgh, Pa.
It’s the Backyard Brawl. Nothing more really needs to be said. It doesn’t matter what the records are -- both the Panthers and the Mountaineers are out for blood. This is could be a major game in deciding the conference title, so that simply ups the stakes. Expect Anson and me to be completely uncivil to each other the week of the game, and one of us to sulk the week following the Brawl. My money’s on him, since other than ruining the Mountaineers' shot at the 2008 National Title Game, Wannstache hasn’t won very many important games. There's no reason to think he’ll start now.
Dec. 4 - Rutgers - Mountaineer Field, Morgantown W.Va.
The Big East powers that be have also scheduled Pitt and Cincinnati to play each other on December 4, so up front you know who they think will be playing for the conference crown. That said, if the 'Eers can manage to navigate their season successfully, then this will be the de-facto Big East Title Game. Last year, Rutgers quarterback Tom Savage was pressed into action as a true freshman. With a season under his belt, the 'Eers can expect him to make the same mistakes that cost them the game last year. This will be a defensive grudge-match and whichever sophomore quarterback can play mistake-free will win the day. Let's hope it's Geno Smith, or else it could be a long offseason in Morgantown!