Top 10 West Virginia Football Teams of All-Time

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Athlon Sports ranks the best Mountaineers teams since the AP debuted in 1934.

Athlon Sports ranks the best Mountaineers teams since the AP debuted in 1934.

West Virginia has taken a long and winding path to Big 12 competition. It hasn't had an undefeated season since the AP Poll was implemented in 1934, has played in three difference conferences and was an independent as well. The Mountaineers haven't won any national championships but have plenty of conference titles under their belt.\

So who was more difficult to stop, Major Harris or Pat White? Could Rich Rodriguez' best team defeat Don Nehlen's top squad? Which team was the best? The fact of the matter is no one will ever know for sure, so trying to rank the best teams in W-V-U history is virtually impossible. But we're going to try anyway.

1. 1988 (11-1)
Head Coach: Don Nehlen

The 1988 Mountaineers team went unbeaten in the regular season and is simultaneously the most revered and most painful team in school history. After rolling perfectly through the season led by dynamic quarterback Major Harris, West Virginia entered the national championship showdown with Notre Dame. Yet, three plays into the Fiesta Bowl, the Mounties' season unraveled when Harris separated his shoulder. The Irish won 34-21 and the game has left fans in Morgantown wondering "what if?" for more than two decades.

2. 2007 (11-2, 5-2)
Head Coach: Rich Rodriguez/Bill Stewart

Yet another "what if?" for Mountaineers fans came in 2007 when juniors Pat White and Steve Slaton led West Virginia to a No. 1 ranking entering the Backyard Brawl. An injury to White helped Pitt defeat WVU 13-9 in the regular-season finale and the loss knocked the Mounties out of the BCS National Championship game. This is the highest scoring team in school history (515 points), one that earned a Big East co-championship and eventually won the Fiesta Bowl over Oklahoma 48-28 — a game coached by Bill Stewart after Rodriguez took the Michigan job following the regular season. The sixth-place final AP poll finish is third all-time in school history.

3. 2005 (11-1, 7-0)
Head Coach: Rich Rodriguez

The ’05 team wasn’t supposed to be one of the school’s best but two freshman superstars changed all of that for WVU. Quarterback White and tailback Slaton were perfect fits for RichRod’s zone-read option and defenses didn’t know how to slow them down. The lone loss of the year came against No. 3 Virginia Tech and the Big East championship season was capped by a historic showdown in the Sugar Bowl with Georgia (in Atlanta). The 38-35 win over the Bulldogs gave the Mountaineers a fifth-place finish in the polls, tying the 1988 team for the best AP finish in school history.

4. 1993 (11-1, 7-0)
Head Coach: Don Nehlen

Nehlen’s 1993 team won its first 11 games, including wins over ranked Missouri, Louisville, Miami and Boston College, to reach the Sugar Bowl. The Big East champs, ranked No. 3 in the AP Poll, didn’t get to face either Florida State or Nebraska and instead lost to Florida in ugly fashion 41-7. This was the fourth highest scoring team in school history at the time and finished seventh in the polls.

5. 2006 (11-2, 5-2)
Head Coach: Rich Rodriguez

The Mountaineers entered the season fifth in the AP Poll and rattled off seven straight victories to start the year. White and Slaton continued to churn out big yards until a mid-season road loss to Louisville cost this team a Big East championship. Another loss at home to USF led to a Gator Bowl berth (and win) against Georgia Tech. The 10th-place finish in the AP Poll is one of just six top 10 postseason rankings.

6. 2011 (10-3, 5-2)
Head Coach: Dana Holgorsen

Led by junior quarterback Geno Smith, the Mountaineers won a share of the Big East Championship with losses to No. 2 LSU, at Syracuse and Louisville. Smith and Holgorsen’s offense dropped 70 on Clemson in the Orange Bowl win to cap the year.

7. 1953 (8-2, 4-0)
Head Coach: Art Lewis

Playing in the Southern Conference, Lewis led the Mountaineers to a perfect league record and SoCon title. The only two losses came against South Carolina and No. 8 Georgia Tech in the Sugar Bowl.

8. 1969 (10-1)
Head Coach: Jim Carlen

Still playing independent football, West Virginia lost just one game in 1969 — a brutal road loss to No. 5 Penn State. The season ended with a 14-3 win over South Carolina in the Peach Bowl.

9. 1954 (8-1, 3-0)
Head Coach: Art Lewis

The Mounties won their second straight SoCon Championship after wins over ranked South Carolina and Penn State. The only loss came against arch-rival Pitt in the Backyard Brawl 13-10.

10. 2010 (9-4, 5-2)
Head Coach: Bill Stewart

Geno Smith began his starting career under center for WVU with a co-Big East Championship and trip to the Champs Sports Bowl. This team lost three regular-season games, including road trips to LSU and co-champ UConn, by a combined 14 points.

 

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