West Virginia will have its hands full in the first half of the 2015 season. Early games, which normally should be considered "tune-ups," instead will be against opponents that have the potential to produce upsets. October will be brutal and if the Mountaineers can come out at .500 or better at the end of that month, it could be a signature season for head coach Dana Holgorsen.
Depth and speed lead the Mountaineers into the 2015 season. But the Big 12 always has an answer. Here are West Virginia's 12 regular season games ranked from easiest to most difficult.
12. Nov. 21 at Kansas
The Jayhawks will simply not be any good this season. While Kansas is only two years removed from beating the Mountaineers in Lawrence, this year’s team is depleted of significant talent. The loss of both starting safeties and cornerbacks should allow the Mountaineers to throw at will.
11. Nov. 28 vs. Iowa State
While the Cyclones’ defense should be much improved from last season’s 125th-ranking, this team is still far from being competitive. West Virginia should be able to control the line of scrimmage and be successful in the run game. The Iowa State offense will struggle against a stout Mountaineer defense playing on its own turf.
10. Sept. 12 vs. Liberty
This should not be any more than a tune-up game for the Mountaineers. However, Liberty is not exactly a pushover either. The Flames are ranked No. 12 in Athlon Sports’ preseason FCS Top 25 and are coming off their first-ever playoff appearance last season. Liberty head coach Turner Gill is a seasoned veteran and will have his team ready. The Flames’ biggest threat, preseason all-American wide receiver Darrin Peterson, will have to deal with shutdown corner Daryl Worley and the Mountaineers’ size and speed will eventually stave off any chance of an upset.
9. Nov. 7 vs. Texas Tech
The Red Raiders travel to Morgantown at the end of a difficult three-game stretch. The Mountaineers will be much improved against the pass this season and their offense should be able to score against a rebuilding defense.
8. Sept. 5 vs. Georgia Southern
This game could be closer than Mountaineer fans would like. West Virginia has a tendency to come out of the gate slow and Georgia Southern returns a veteran backfield that led the nation in rushing last season.
7. Sept. 26 vs. Maryland
The Terrapins come to Morgantown for the first time since 2012. Maryland typically hasn’t fared well at West Virginia and the Terps’ key playmakers have departed. However, it is a rivalry game and anything can happen.
6. Oct. 10 vs. Oklahoma State
The Cowboys come to Morgantown on Homecoming weekend but have the potential to be significantly better than the team the Mountaineers handled 34-10 in Stillwater last season. While the Mountaineers should be favored, this game could go either way.
5. Dec. 5 at Kansas State
The Wildcats finish the season at home against the Mountaineers and don’t exactly have a tough November up to that point. The Wildcats have lost some playmakers, but you just don’t count out a Bill Snyder-coached team, especially on their own turf.
4. Nov. 14 vs. Texas
It’s the Longhorns, period. Texas has implemented a spread offense to accommodate Tyrone Swoopes’ abilities. This may not be the normal WVU vs. UT matchup you are used to seeing. Expect both teams to let loose.
3. Oct. 29 (Thursday) at TCU
These games have always been decided in the fourth quarter, usually with West Virginia coming out on the short end. This season West Virginia will face a veteran offense that will be as potent as any the Mountaineers’ defense will see in 2015.
2. Oct. 17 at Baylor
If you remember the last time West Virginia travelled to Baylor it was ugly — like men’s basketball against Kentucky in this year’s Sweet 16 ugly. There aren’t many deficiencies on either side of the ball for the Bears this season. It will not be easy for anyone to leave Waco with a victory.
1. Oct. 3 at Oklahoma
While Oklahoma may not be the most difficult team the Mountaineers will face this season, Norman is the toughest place to earn a victory. West Virginia opens up Big 12 play against the Sooners for the third straight year. Oklahoma simply plays a different kind of game at home.
— Written by Jeremy Simon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and editor-in-chief of BlueGoldSports.com, a must visit for any and all West Virginia Mountaineer fans. Follow BlueGoldSports.com on Twitter @Blue_GoldSports.