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The Mountaineers need to bounce back in 2014.
It's hard to believe that West Virginia is just two seasons removed from hanging 70 on Clemson in an Orange Bowl win.
But after an atrocious 4-8 record in 2013, the luster has clearly worn off of head coach Dana Holgorsen's resume in Morgantown. The deterioration of the program — most specifically the offense — has been alarmingly rapid and has led to major question marks about Holgorsen's future.
Needless to say, this is a critical year for Holgorsen and West Virginia. Does the schedule set up for a return to the postseason or does it appear Mountaineers fans will endure another brutal season on the gridiron?
2014 West Virginia Schedule Analysis
2014 WVU Schedule
Big, bad blue bloods
West Virginia picked the worst possible time to play a season opener against the SEC in the Georgia Dome. The first game of the year against Alabama was scheduled years ago but no one could have foreseen this type of mismatch. Bama enters the year No. 2 in the nation and the SEC front-runner while West Virginia is coming off its worst season since 2001. Then, three weeks later, the Mountaineers must face Big 12 front-runner Oklahoma in Morgantown. According to Athlon Sports' preseason rankings, West Virginia will face two of the projected four playoff teams in the first four weeks of the year.
Steve Slaton Bowl
With an easy win over Towson scheduled for Week 2, a huge non-conference game with Maryland looms large in Week 3. The Terps rolled over WVU last year 37-0, have changed leagues to the Big Ten and get the Mountaineers at home. This game should provide an example of just different the direction of both programs are heading. So with Alabama and Maryland both on the schedule, a 1-2 non-conference record might be the best case scenario for WVU.
Home swing games
If there are going to be some wins for the embattled Holgorsen in the Big 12, they are likely to come at home (See: Oklahoma State last season). Kansas, Baylor, TCU, Kansas State and the Sooners will all have to make the long and circuitous trip to Morgantown. West Virginia should win two of those contests with an outside shot at a third win from this quintet of games. The road slate is extremely tough and if the Mountaineers want to improve on last year’s 2-7 Big 12 record, they will have to get work done at home.
West Virginia won one game on the road last year (at TCU) and that came in overtime against one of the worst offenses in the league. A winless record on the road in 2014 could be very possible. Holgorsen has to face Maryland, Texas Tech, Texas, Oklahoma State and Iowa State on the road — four of which beat the Mounties in Morgantown a year ago.
The overall direction of the West Virginia program is concerning. The 4-8 overall record was the worst win total since Rich Rodriguez won only three games in his first season back in 2001. Unfortunately, things don’t appear to be in place for the Mountaineers to post a dramatic turnaround. The non-conference schedule is extremely difficult and the road slate within the Big 12 is going to be brutal. One non-conference win, one or two home Big 12 wins and one road conference victory might be too much to expect and that would barely match last year’s four-win total.