Last week, West Virginia announced its 2024 football schedule. With seven home games and two bye weeks splitting the season into even thirds, the logistics of the schedule look more favorable than in recent years. The strength of opponents, on the other hand, certainly presents a bigger challenge than 2023. We know it is early, and Spring camp has not even started yet. Nonetheless, we are taking an early look at WVU’s 2024 schedule.
An Early Look at WVU’s 2024 Schedule
After last week’s Big 12 schedule release, we finally have the Mountaineers’ 2024 schedule in hand. Here is what that schedule looks like on paper.
|Last Season Record
The first few things that jump out here include the bye week distribution. The two bye weeks break West Virginia’s 2024 schedule into even thirds, which should offer the team some reprieve from the usual bumps and bruises they accumulate over the season. Those bye weeks also prevent the team from playing two away games in successive weeks. Notice that West Virginia travels to Arizona and Cincinnati for two straight games, but a bye week separates the two. Additionally, the second leg of that streak involves a short trip to Cincinnati.
The schedule also features a more difficult schedule than in 2023, where the Mountaineers had the benefit of playing each of the bottom six teams during its Big 12 schedule. 2024 looks different, as the Mountaineers play seven FBS teams that produced winning records in 2023 (against four such teams last season). Their FCS opponent, Albany, also won 11 games last year and bowed out of the FCS playoff in the semifinal after losing to eventual champion South Dakota State.
How Might the Mountaineers Fare?
We stress again that this is an early look at WVU’s 2024 schedule. We will undoubtedly dig into this schedule at least two more times before the regular season begins. No teams have started Spring camp, and the post-camp transfer portal window will change teams’ rosters heading into the season. Nonetheless, based on our first impression, the schedule offers a balance between challenging opponents that should help the team earn more respect than its nine-win season did last year (assuming, of course, the team continues to perform well) and some weeks that feature what might be considered should-win games.
First, we look at the teams that the Mountaineers can, and maybe should, beat. Despite the recent success of FCS opponent Albany, the Mountaineers have not lost to an FCS school in its history. This is not the type of team that should lose such a game in 2024. Pitt would need to make substantial strides to overcome the Mountaineers next season, though we can never truly count anything out in the Backyard Brawl. Iowa State struggled last season, and they seem to be trending in the wrong direction. Cincinnati, Baylor, and UCF might make positive strides in 2024, but they would require big jumps in production to get off of this list. That gives us a minimum expectation of six wins in 2024.
What About the Rest?
Among Penn State, Kansas, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, Arizona, and Texas Tech, West Virginia should win at least two of those games. Texas Tech offers an unknown, as Head Coach Neal Brown has struggled against the Red Raiders historically. Whether they can improve from a modest 2023 remains to be seen. Arizona presents a similar unknown. They played well in 2023, but they lost their head coach. They also lost a fair bit of talent to the transfer portal. If they regress, they might fall into the “should” win category.
This leaves Penn State, Kansas, Oklahoma State, and Kansas State as the toughest four opponents on WVU’s schedule. That they play three of those games at home certainly helps. Ultimately, a season opener against Penn State, which finished the season ranked fifth in ESPN’s FPI rankings, offers an early bellwether for how the 2024 Mountaineers might perform. Nonetheless, the Nittany Lions replace both their offensive and defensive coordinators. They also lose their three top cornerbacks and a fair portion of the defensive line production. This game will be tough, but it is, at least, winnable.
As for Kansas, the Jayhawks also find themselves replacing critical staff members. The roster is fairly stable, which might help balance those losses. The Cowboys always play well at home, and the Mountaineers travel to face them. WVU, however, beat the Cowboys in Stillwater two years ago with a worse team. And West Virginia had several opportunities to finish off the Cowboys last year until a muffed punt shifted all momentum to Oklahoma State late. Finally, the Wildcats come to Morgantown fresh off of a trip to Colorado. They will be trotting out a dynamic athlete at quarterback in Avery Johnson. Outside of Penn State, this is the toughest game on the Mountaineers’ 2024 schedule.
Concluding with Early Expectations
Ultimately, based on our early look at WVU’s 2024 schedule, we think West Virginia should follow 2023 with another eight-win season, while they have an outside chance at a 10-win season and a spot in the Big 12 championship. A lot will have to go right for that ceiling to come into play, but it is also not absurd to think it can be done.