Where, And How, Does WVU Rank All-Time?
By Bob Hertzel
The thing about the summer time is that you have time to go off into a quiet corner and think about West Virginia football in ways you seldom have a chance to think about it when there are upcoming games to dissect.
So it was on a quiet Tuesday morning, awaiting baseball’s All-Star gala in the evening, that we took a look at WVU football as it really is … and that is on a national level.
With the schedule being upgraded over the years via a switch in conferences and then a return to scheduling rivalry games, we thought we might just take a look at the Mountaineers’ place as a Power 5 conference school.
Counting Notre Dame, there are 65 schools in the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC.
Would it surprise you to know that WVU has played all but nine of those 65 schools in its history? That is national scheduling … although many of those were match-ups seen only in bowl games over the years.
QUICKIE QUIZ: Can you name those nine Power 5 conference schools that WVU has never faced?
Don’t look, as the answer is coming in the next paragraph.
The nine Power 5 schools WVU has never played in football are Arizona, Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota, Northwestern, Tennessee, Washington, Washington State and UCLA. That list will be pared to eight schools next year with Tennessee put on the schedule for a game in Charlotte, N.C.
Everyone enjoys playing major schools … the competition is keener and you’ve heard of the players on the opposing teams and the games have more meaning, but they also are harder to win.
QUICKIE QUIZ II: What do you think WVU’s record is all-time against the schools that make up the Power 5 conferences? Is it a winning record? A losing record?
Here’s the answer:
WVU is 284-332 against Power 5 conference schools, a losing record although in many ways it is understandable because its top four rivalry teams — the teams it has played the most — have been national powers at times in Pitt, Penn State, Maryland and Virginia Tech.
In fact, WVU is 40-61 all-time against Pitt and 9-48 against Penn State. Quite amazingly, the Mountaineers are 28-22 against both Virginia Tech and Maryland. We are ignoring ties here.
QUICKIE QUIZ III: Who has WVU beaten most often in football?
Here’s the answer: Pitt 40 times, Rutgers 33 times, Maryland and Virginia Tech 28 times and Syracuse 22 times.
That leads us to yet another quiz.
QUICKIE QUIZ IV: Who has WVU lost to most often in football?
Pitt’s on top here, too, with its 61 victories, while Penn State has 48, Syracuse 33 and Maryland and Virginia Tech those 22.
As noted, WVU has found a way to work these rivalry games back into the schedule so that it plays Pitt in 2022-25, Penn State in 2023-24, Virginia Tech this year and 2021-22.
You might want to circle 2022 on your schedule, for that year WVU plays at Pitt and at home against Virginia Tech, while also having all those Big 12 Conference games. Being in the Big 12 offers a chance to face not just ranked teams, but traditionally top-ranked teams, much as it was in the Big East when Miami was a national powerhouse and Michael Vick took Virginia Tech to the top.
Not that that is something that will help the overall Mountaineer record. Consider that WVU against all ranked opponents over the years is 43-113-2 for a .278 winning percentage.
QUICKIE QUIZ V: How many times have the Mountaineers upset the nation’s No. 1 team in its history.
I think you know the answer to that.
WVU has never beaten a No. 1 team in nine tries. Some came in down years, yes, but some were with their best teams and they lost, the most disappointing, of course, being when they played Notre Dame in the 1989 Fiesta Bowl for the national title, only have quarterback Major Harris injured in the first quarter.
In fact, West Virginia has never beaten a No. 1 or 2 team, its top victories being a pair of wins over No. 3 teams and they have come in recent years, beating No. 3 Virginia Tech on Oct. 22, 2003, 28-7, when Quincy Wilson ran wild for 178 yards as the Mountaineers outrushed the Hokies, 264 yards to 65.
And then, of course, is arguably the biggest win in school history, beating Oklahoma in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl after being upset by Pitt in the regular season finale to cost a shot at the national title. That was the Bill Stewart “Leave No Doubt” game.
WVU was ranked No. 11 for that game and the school has thrived while ranked, owning a 152-71-1 record as a ranked team, going 83-28-1 at home over the years for .746 winning percentage.
QUICKIE QUIZ VI: The largest victory margin win while ranked?
The widest margin of victory was 69-3 over Cincinnati on Oct. 21, 1989, topping the 61-0 win the 1953 No. 19 Mountaineers put on North Carolina State before 5,800 on the road. But the biggest blowout in terms of national recognition came when they beat No. 14 Clemson, 70-33, in the 2012 Orange Bowl.