West Virginia’s recently released 2021 football schedule has a familiar structure, with the overall placement of home/road league games and the open date key parts of the slate.
The Big 12 again paid attention to West Virginia’s lengthy travel times for league road games, and did not give the Mountaineers road contests on back-to-back weekends. WVU does have two consecutive league road match-ups – at Baylor and at TCU – but those are split up by an open date. While some observers believe West Virginia gets short shrift from the league, the Big 12 has avoided assigning WVU back-to-back road games in consecutive weeks.
While it’s true that some other league teams don’t have consecutive back-to-backers in conference play, four teams do have to hit the road on two weekends in succession. Iowa State, Kansas, TCU and Texas all are slated for that unenviable task in 2021. Additionally, counting the neutral site game in Dallas, Oklahoma and Texas also have back-to-back games away from home. That might leave the Longhorns with the toughest league schedule in terms or road venues, as they have to travel to face TCU and Oklahoma, then Baylor and Iowa State, in the span of just six weekends.
Other tough slates, or portions thereof, in the league belong to Iowa State, Kansas, TCU, Texas, Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, all of which have four game Big 12 stretches on consecutive weekends that include three away from home. The Cowboys’ trips to Texas, Iowa State and West Virginia could be the toughest of that grouping.
Shifting the gaze back to West Virginia, the Mountaineers have an evenly-split schedule, with six home games on either side of the open date on Oct. 16. Those games are also nicely divided into three road and three home games each.
Of course, no team gets everything it wants in its schedule, and that’s true for WVU also. The Mountaineers face a tough September with games against Maryland, Virginia Tech and the Big 12 opener against Oklahoma, lightened only by the home pay game against Long Island from the FCS ranks. That makes the opening road trek to Terp land a very important one, as a loss would have the potential of saddling WVU with a 1-3 record in the month.
The October slate ramps up in difficulty as the month progresses, with the TCU and Iowa State at the back end, leading into a tough start to November with a home date against Oklahoma State.
From there, though, the path is laid out for a potentially strong finish. WVU gets Kansas State and Kansas saddled around perennially underachieving Texas, which the Mountaineers had every chance to beat in 2020.
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Other schedule notes: TCU has the earliest open date (Sep. 18), which will force it to play on 10 consecutive weekends, including all of its conference games.
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Every game on the league schedule is set for Saturday at the moment. While some of those can, and probably will, change days, there are usually at least a couple of games set for Thursday or Friday by this time, especially those the week of Thanksgiving or early in the year.
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Only one league team – WVU – has two Power 5 teams in the non-conference portion of its schedule. Six Big 12 teams face one, with Kansas’ match-up against Duke, Oklahoma’s contest against Nebraska and Texas’ trip to Arkansas less than stellar features.
Baylor again ducks any P5 foes, but does have a game against BYU, while Oklahoma State has Boise State as a respectable sub for a top-tier conference opponent. Texas Tech features Houston as its best non-conference foe. It’s tough to pick a “best of” out of this assortment, although Iowa State-Northern Iowa, TCU-SMU, Texas-Louisiana and Kansas-Coastal Carolina are all contests featuring worthy Group of 5 foes.