New Opponent Balances WVU Schedule

The confirmed announcement of Mississippi State as a new football opponent for 2006 and 2007 not only fills a hole on WVU's future schedule, but also sets the Mountaineers up to continue work on home and home series for 2008 and beyond.

With the addition of the Bulldogs, WVU's future football schedule is now complete through 2007, but that's only the first benefit of adding the SEC school to the slate. The first game of the series, to be played at Starkville in 2006, allowed WVU to move the Villanova game, which was originally scheduled for that year, back to at least 2008. WVU has three openings on the 2008 schedule,which is also the next season that 12 regular-season games can be played.

Moving the Villanova game removed one of the sore spots of future schedules - namely, the fact that the Mountaineers were scheduled to play both Buffalo and the Wildcats during 2006. Although the Bison have improved a bit over the past two years, WVU's non-conference schedule for that season was viewed as being decidedly soft. Now, with the move of the Villanova game, WVU has a much better looking out of conference slate for the next three seasons.

Adding the Bulldogs also opens up the possibility of another televised game. Assistant Athletic Director Mike Parsons noted that such intersectional games have good attractiveness to TV cameras.

"Many intersectional games like this are prime candidates for television," Parsons told shortly after the announcement. "Plus, Mississippi State has a history of playing weeknight games, which is something that we are obviously looking at also."

Of course television broadcasts and game dates are far in the future, and nothing definite can be set, but the opponent, their willingness to play on days other than Saturday, and the matchup of the Big East vs. the SEC all figure to make the game a good bet for TV/

In addition to the immediate benefits, the new games and slight schedule shuffle now puts WVU in a good position to begin working on home and home series for 2008 and beyond. Openings on future schedules shape up well for home and home contracts, so those will be the next area of focus for the program.

Although Parsons did not mention any teams by name, he noted that both Big Ten and SEC schools would be good fits for WVU's future scheduling plans. West Virginia does not want to load their schedule with ACC foes, as that can lead to bowl matchup problems. The Big East and ACC went head to head in three bowls last year. A schedule too many ACC foes could narrow WVU's bowl options, as regular-season rematches ,such as the WVU-Maryland Gator Bowl this past year, are dimly viewed in some quarters.

The road trip to the Magnolia State in 2006 also helps WVU recruiting in that state and region, as head coach Rich Rodriguez noted in his comment on the games. Families of WVU players from Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama, as well as potential recruits, will now get a chance to see the Mountaineers in person without making an extended journey.

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