Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

July 4, 2013

WVU and Virginia Tech both improve schedule strength

By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

BLUEFIELD — I have always believed that for two college football teams to play each other there has to be something to gain for both schools.

It could be an easy win for one and a big payday for another — see Virginia Tech vs. Austin Peay.

It could be a game where one school wants to play in a particular area for recruiting purposes and the other gets a home game — see West Virginia at East Carolina.

It could be a situation where two schools wish to improve their non-conference strength of schedule by playing an old rival — see West Virginia vs. Virginia Tech.

Word that the Mountaineers and Hokies will renew their gridiron rivalry is good news to many people in the two Virginias, both those wearing the old gold and blue and those donning the Chicago maroon and orange.  Virginia Tech is not considered WVU’s biggest rival, that is reserved for Pitt, but many in this part of the Mountain State would place it above the Backyard Brawl. The same is true for the Hokies, their biggest rival is UVa, but some just can’t stand the Mountaineers.

Frank Beamer has had success against WVU. Of Virginia Tech’s 22 wins against the Mountaineers, Beamer has claimed 12 of those against seven losses.  WVU holds a 28-22-1 advantage in the series that dates to 1912. The two teams played every year between 1973 and 2005.

With WVU having only three non-conference games a year since joining the Big 12, there are few opportunities to schedule long-term series between teams out of conference. I do not think we will see Pitt-WVU or WVU-Tech played every year unless there is more conference realignment that may bring WVU into the ACC fold, or Pitt or Tech to the Big 12. Don’t say it will never happen.

For WVU it would be great to have one of those non-conference games against long-time rivals that are now in the ACC — Virginia Tech (51 games), Pitt (104 games) or Syracuse (59 games). How about playing a two year cycle against one school, then the next, then the next and keep that going.

The second non-conference game could be against Big 10 teams that are regional rivals — Maryland (49 games), Rutgers (39 games), or Penn State (59 games). Once again, operate on a two-year cycle and repeat it when the six years are up.

The final non-conference game for the Mountaineers could be a national game such as the sesaon opener next year against Alabama — Virginia Tech is in that game this year against the Crimson Tide — or the 2016 game against Brigham Young,  a “tune up” one-and-done home game, or a two-year home-and-home series against someone like Tennessee. I have always wanted to see a Volunteer-Mountaineer matchup, Davey Crockett meets Daniel Boone.

Being able to schedule in that manner would provide an improved strength of schedule for the newly designed playoff structure. It  would allow WVU to maintain a regional presence and the flexibility to schedule a home game, or national game as needed or desired.

Virginia Tech also, like WVU has a need to upgrade its future non-conference schedules and iis doing so. Unlike WVU, Virginia Tech has its non-conference slates filled through 2019. This season the Hokies face defending national champion Alabama, Western Carolina, East Carolina and Marshall. In 2014 they take on William & Mary, East Carolina, Ohio State and Western Michigan. In 2015 it’s Notre Dame, Furman, East Carolina and Ohio State.

While there is at lease one high-quality team every year, the strength of schedule will not be sufficient as other teams upgrade their schedules, to help the Hokies in the new college football playoff.

It appears that from 2014 through 2021, except for two years, there is a Big 10 team on the schedule — Ohio State (’14-’15), Wisconsin (’16-’17) and Michigan (’20-’21). There are games against CUSA teams — Marshall (2013), Old Dominion (’17, ‘18, ‘19), Charlotte (’19). The newly named AAU is represented by East Carolina (’14-‘17). There is a yearly game against a FCS opponent Furman (’15), Liberty (’16), Delaware (’17), William & Mary (’14 and ‘18) and Richmond (’21).

With four non-conference games and two of those going to Notre Dame every eight years, it would be great to see the Hokies have a slot for a game against the SEC. A non-conference slate with opponents from the SEC, Big 12, Big 10 and then your non-power conference would bring the necessary strength of schedule. Just as I would like to see a WVU-Tennessee battle, a Virginia Tech-Tennessee game would be just as exciting and provide benefits for both schools.

I have had the privilege to attend 13 WVU-Virginia Tech games as a student, alumnus and journalist, the first of those coming in 1982 on a cold, wind-swept day at Lane Stadium. Every one of those games at which I have been present has been a sell-out in both Blacksburg and Morgantown. Most of them have been competitive games, there have been a few exceptions. I have witnessed ugliness from fans of both schools and I have seen sportsmanship from both. It is a good college football rivalry between two institutions that are very similar in their origins, scope and mission.

Both are land grant universities built in small towns in remote parts of their respective states after the Civil War to educate their citizens. Both are now large universities with approximately 30,000 students. Both schools have football programs that are national in scope and they are the two winningest programs in the country that have not won a national championship. WVU is No. 14 among Division I schools in all-time wins with 708 and Virginia Tech is No. 16 with 695 victories. By the way, Michigan tops the list with 903 wins and Texas is second at 866.

Young men who are playing youth league football this season will be the ones on the gridiron when these two schools meet in eight seasons. It’s a long wait, but it’s good to see that they will be tightening up the chin straps and going at it once again for the Black Diamond Trophy.

— Bob Redd is a Daily Telegraph sportswriter. Contact him at bredd@bdtonline.com