Very Fair Schedule Awaits

West Virginia has long had reason to complain about aspects of the Big East football schedule. In joining the Big 12, the Mountaineers got the benefit of some consideration from its new league, as well as a more stable slate that will help it deal with some lengthy road trips.

Before we get started going through the 2012 Football Schedule, it should be noted that West Virginia, both fans and school alike, are just entering the honeymoon stage of its relationship with the Big 12. At this point, the league could have told WVU it was playing in the Austin stockyards or a West Texas prairie dotted with tumbleweeds, and Mountaineer fans would likely have been happy. So, scarcely a negative word has been heard about West Virginia's 2012 slate – but even a more detailed look up and down the three-month slog leaves little to be upset about.

First off, no weekday games are on the slate, although there still could be some adjustments to dates if television partners request them. According to an official release from the Big 12, "television selections for the first three weeks of the season and special dates are due to the Conference by July 1."

So, while West Virginia still might have a non-Saturday game this year or on future schedules, its not likely to have the jumble of Friday, Thursday and sometimes Sunday games that have dotted its slate in recent years. The last time West Virginia played an all-Saturday schedule? Nineteen ninety-nine, according to this excellent website. This is going to be helpful for both fans and team alike – and more important for the latter. While an all-Saturday schedule should allow more fans to get to Morgantown for games, it will also make a routine for the players much more easy to follow. Off days, pregame prep and contact practice days shouldn't change much (we'll discuss an exception or two later), but for the most part it's going to be a similar schedule each week.

WVU opens the season with its three out of conference games, then dives into Big 12 play with nine consecutive conference tilts. That was pretty much predetermined, as WVU's dates with Marshall, James Madison and Maryland were already set. But it did leave the oddity of a week off (Sept. 8) just one week after the season begins. I've heard some grumbling about this from at least one radio observer, but those complaints don't hold water upon deeper examination. Would West Virginia prefer to have a game on the second weekend of September? Probably so. But is it a bad thing, or a wasted week? No. The Mountaineers are going to be install a new defense this spring and fall, and having an extra week early in the season to work on fundamentals without the pressure of a looming game on Saturday.

If this was West Virginia's only off week, I'd agree that it is something of a problem. But the Big 12 also granted WVU an off week at the end of October, right in the middle of its toughest stretch of the season, so there's just not much to complain about there. The second break is perfectly timed, and probably couldn't be better placed.

Next, the Big 12 allowed WVU to open the league season at home. This is a good marketing tactic, as Mountaineer fans should be buzzing with anticipation for Big 12 play. The opponent, Baylor, is also a good foe – this should be an excellent game and give the Mountaineers a good taste of what awaits it in the league. Yes, Heisman winner Robert Griffin III won't be on the field, but the Bears will still have a high-powered offense and designs on a bowl bid.

As October dawns, the meat of the schedule arrives. Six consecutive games against teams that should go to bowls and contend for Top 25 spots will define West Virginia's season. The games open with back-to-back road trips to Texas and Texas Tech, which will be a difficult logistical challenge, especially if the game in Austin is a night contest. This will be the one time that WVU's travel schedule really affects preparation for the following week. Will WVU still practice on Sunday and take Monday off, as it did this year, or might it adjust that? The topic is still under discussion within the coaching staff.

Home games with Kansas State and TCU follow the road jaunt, with the wrap-up an Oklahoma hoedown at State and the marquee home game with the Sooners. While this schedule is difficult, there's no complaining here. The Big 12 doesn't have many weak sisters, and only Oklahoma doesn't have back-to-back league road games scheduled for this season. Even Texas, the perceived ruler of all things Big 12, plays OSU, WVU, and Oklahoma on three consecutive weekends.

The other thing to remember is that this difficult stretch is broken up at its mid-point with an open date, giving the Mountaineers the chance to catch their collective breath. On the whole, it's tough to see how WVU could have asked for much more.

If Dana Holgorsen's troops can survive that stretch still in contention, it gets a break at the end of the year, as it plays two teams that will likely be picked at nor near the bottom of the conference. While no game in the Big 12 is going to be a guaranteed win, finishing up with Iowa State and Kansas will be much easier, than, say, TCU's double dip of Texas and Oklahoma.

One other factor to look at is the bye weeks and match-ups of opponents the week before they face the Mountaineers. Again, this is subject to change if game dates are moved, but overall the balance of the Big 12's schedule at the moment looks very good. Kansas has a week off before playing WVU, but every other league foe has a game the week prior to their meeting with the Mountaineers. West Virginia, as already noted, has an open date the week prior to hosting TCU, so all in all it's a very fair schedule that awaits WVU this fall.

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