While many fans understandably view the football schedule through the prism of how it affects them in terms of travel, work schedules and the like, there's typically precious little analysis of how it impacts the group that it was designed for in the first place – the team itself. So, herewith, are the positives and negatives of the 2006 football schedule.
WVU plays seven home games at Mountaineer Field, and not much explanation is needed as to why this is a good thing. On the field, the advantages of staying in familiar surroundings and playing in front of the (mostly) friendly crowd are undeniable. It's also one more game's worth of revenue to help WVU's athletic budget. It won't be a surprise to see WVU's season tickets sell out, so waiting until August and then complaining about not being able to get a ducat won't get much sympathy.
Three home games to start the season should help get the offseason kinks worked out before the challenging stretch of four road games in five weeks.
Games are spaced out better over the three months of the season. An off week on Sept. 30, plus an expected open Saturday before the Thursday road trip to Louisville give the Mountaineers a more balanced schedule than a year ago, when they played seven consecutive weekends to start the season. More evenly distributed games should help with the continuity of WVU's play as well.
In addition to better overall spacing, the time between games against tougher foes is good as well. Unlike some schedules of a few years ago, when the Mountaineers faced three powers in a row, the better teams on the 2006 slate are spaced out nicely. WVU doesn't face Maryland until game number three, gets a relatively easy road game at East Carolina to kick off a tough four road games out of five swing, and has two weeks between Louisville and Pitt.
National TV: four ESPN/ESPN2 games can't be sneezed at. Yes, it screws with the fans, and yes, Friday night should be left alone by the NCAA and colleges. But WVU and the Big East aren't in the position where it can dictate to those that hold its TV fate. And more importantly, it is a recruiting advantage. Coaches call up before and after the games, reminding kids they can see the team that's recruiting them on TV. And when it comes down to it, more kids are likely to be at home on Thursday night than they are on Saturday.
The Mountaineers play four weeknight games, and don't get the week off before three of them. WVU plays Buffalo (tentatively) at home five days before the home date against Maryland, which is acceptable. However, short preparation weeks for road games (WVU hosts Syracuse six days before the away game at UConn and Cincinnati just five days before the jaunt to Pittsburgh for the Backyard Brawl) aren't. No team should be forced to go on the road off a short week, yet the Mountaineers will be forced to do so twice.
For the second consecutive year, West Virginia will barely sniff the home field during the prime month of October. Only the homecoming date against Syracuse on October 14 will see the Mountaineers take the field in front of the home fans.
Four road games out of five is bad, but it's not quite the torture test it could have been. The games are spaced out over a 39-day period.
The schedule is also brutal on the players' academic and personal lives. While that's the first consideration, it could also have a spillover effect on their play on the field. West Virginia's will miss at least nine days of classes due to this schedule, and will also face steep challenges in balancing schoolwork and preparation time during the short weeks before the Maryland, UConn and Pitt games.