West Virginia football is certain to have plenty of firepower on offense in 2018. The Mountaineers will bring back both 2017 starting quarterback Will Grier and wide receiver David Sills V, who led the team in touchdown catches last fall.
And that experience may be much-needed for West Virginia, given the schedule that the Mountaineers are facing.
West Virginia’s non-conference schedule includes two Power 5 opponents. The Mountaineers open up the season with a neutral-site game vs. Tennessee in Charlotte, N.C., and will head back in that direction two weeks later when they travel to Raleigh, N.C. to play North Carolina State.
After that, it’s on to Big 12 play, which will begin for West Virginia at home vs. Kansas State. The Mountaineers get the benefit of facing two of the league’s most consistent teams in recent seasons, TCU at Oklahoma, at home this season for their Big 12 slate. But per usual, West Virginia will have to endure the most travel of any team in the league for road games, given Morgantown’s isolation from the rest of the Big 12 territory.
Combine the travel and the Power 5-heavy non-conference schedule, and West Virginia’s path to success may be harder than anybody else in the Big 12. The Dallas Morning News ranked the Mountaineers’ 2018 schedule as the toughest among all 10 Big 12 teams.
Of course, West Virginia’s resume will only look that much more impressive if coach Dana Holgorsen and Co. are in contention for a College Football Playoff spot come the final stages of the regular season. The bad news, however, is that ESPN’s FPI projections have the Mountaineers winning just 6 to 7 games — potentially a repeat of a 7-5 2017 regular season. West Virginia’s FPI projection of 7.7 is good for No. 36 in the nation.
The good news for West Virginia fans — the games are played for a reason. Perhaps come several weeks into the season, the Mountaineers’ lineup of opponents won’t appear too daunting after all. With Grier and Sills back, there’s no reason the team can’t compete against some of the best teams in the nation.
But with the Big 12 shaping up to boast plenty of parity this fall, the margin for error is bound to be small.