Here’s something I didn’t expect to say this season about WVU. The West Virginia Mountaineers deserve to be ranked. And yes, I’m completely serious.
After WVU’s 24-21 win on the road at TCU, head coach Neal Brown, who started the season on everyone’s hot seat, made himself very clear when he said he feels his team should be ranked.
“We should be a nationally ranked team,” Brown said with conviction. He’s also right.
Usually, a 4-1 team riding a four-game win streak who just beat the reigning national runner-up at their place wouldn’t have to much convincing to earn a spot in every top 25. But the way West Virginia has managed to climb to a 4-1 record on the first day of October makes Brown feel like he has to politic for respect.
WVU HC Neal Brown: “We should be a nationally ranked team.”
And he’s right. https://t.co/adSU4niGSi
— Mike J. Asti (@MikeAsti11) October 1, 2023
The Mountaineers are 4-1, but the offense has struggled to find big plays, especially through the air, most of the season. Without strong showings from the defense, WVU may be 1-4 right now.
West Virginia destroyed Duquesne, but won’t earn any style points for scoring 56 against an FCS opponent who only trailed 14-10 when lightning delayed the game for almost two hours. WVU won the Backyard Brawl against their arch rival from Pittsburgh, but did so in a 17-6 in an extremely sloppy game and thanks to the defense converting three interceptions. Brown beat Texas Tech for the first time since arriving in Morgantown in 2019, but the Red Raiders almost stole the game at the end. And West Virginia earned the win over the Horned Frogs, but did so in a wild game that required the defense stepping up in the second half.
But regardless how it’s all happened, WVU is 4-1. That’s already two wins shy of bowl eligibility, something the 15th winningest program in college football history failed to achieve all of last season.
Now some may argue that the way West Virginia has been winning is why the Mountaineers aren’t really deserving of being ranked, but that’s just simply unfair thinking. The top 25 is not entirely based off an eye test, it’s eventually a recognition of body of work. Rankings are always fluid and change week to week, but the final College Football Playoff rankings, if nothing else, look at a team’s resume.
Who you beat and who you lose to matter. So far, WVU has wins against three Power Five opponents, something not every ranked team can say. And West Virginia’s only loss is to one of the best teams in the entire country, a far better loss than the one blemish on the resumes of some ranked teams.
It’s also worth noting, that while Pitt hasn’t been good this season, a win over a hated rival is never easy. Texas Tech was picked to finish fourth in the Big 12 and WVU was projected to be last. TCU may not be elite like they were in 2022, but was considered a two-touchdown favorite at home. It’s not fair to have all that be true and then try to argue those wins are meaningless now.
Brown and even WVU director of athletics Wren Baker spent months publicly complaining about the schedule. While some found it annoying, they were right. West Virginia consistently playing 11 Power Five programs each season is just unnecessary and not in the best interest of the Mountaineers. Imagine if WVU had only 10 on the 2023 schedule and was siting at 5-0 right now.
Most importantly, West Virginia deserves a spot in the top 25 because their resume is either equal or greater than others vying for inclusion.
Let’s start with a Big 12 team who entered the week ranked 24th by the Associated Press – Kansas. The Jayhawks only loss is obviously a good one. They just lost to Texas, a team ranked even higher than Penn State. But Kansas has only two wins over Power Five opponents. WVU has three.
A team who is almost assured to be ranked now that they are 5-0 is Maryland. But Maryland’s schedule is hardly worth respecting. The Terrapins have been blowing teams out, but are void of a quality win. Maryland’s lone non conference Power Five opponent is one of the worst major programs in the country. And Maryland has lucked out in facing Michigan State on the heels of a scandal and Indiana, who barely cares about football at all. Who has Maryland actually beat? Their wins don’t compare.
Like Maryland, Louisville may take advantage of some teams losing and jump into the top 25. But despite being 5-0, Louisville does not have a win that matches WVU beating TCU.
Tennessee, who has been ranked and is now also 4-1, has only two Power Five wins, with one of them coming to Virginia. What’s Tennessee’s best win? South Carolina? Come on. Oh and, the Volunteers only loss is to Florida, but that looks pretty bad since the Gators are now a two-loss team and just dropped one to Kentucky. LSU, still squeezing in for some voters, has two losses and only two Power Five wins.
I could go on and on, but the fact remains the resume of the West Virginia Mountaineers stacks up with the back half of the top 25. WVU has not been winning pretty. The style points aren’t there. There’s a lot that needs improved.
But with all of that said, a ranking should be about what a team has actually accomplished. And based on strength of schedule, and all of the adversity WVU has had to overcome, namely winning two games with a backup quarterback and then winning on the road as they watched several key players be carted off the field, West Virginia deserves, and has earned the right to be ranked inside the top 25 at this time.
There’s still a long season ahead and a ranked team today could easily become a disaster tomorrow, but if we are truly looking at things as they stand each week, there’s just no way to deny the Mountaineers belong.
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