Connect with us

Big 12

Neal Brown All in on Brawl, Out on Playing Multiple P5 Rivals in Same Season



Neal Brown and Pat Narduzzi at Backyard Brawl

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – No matter what happens to the college football landscape, it’s almost a certainty that there will never be a way to make everyone’s schedule completely fair. Conferences are never going to be fully equal and schools are have different interests in mind when compiling a schedule.

In recent years, there have been two clear schedule mentalities evident throughout the country. There are teams who want to make life as easy as possible out of conference, often times due to having to deal with a tough enough road in conference play, and then there’s what West Virginia is doing.

The Mountaineers will start their third straight season away from home against a Power 5 regional rival. West Virginia has been playing multiple Power 5 regional rivals out of only three available non conferences games. WVU’s 2023 schedule is regarded as one of the toughest in the country.

WVU Football Considered to Have Third-Toughest Schedule

On one hand, this has awarded the program with national television exposure and cool moments for fans. Some examples are setting an attendance record in a pro stadium in the resurgence of the Backyard Brawl, revisiting the battle for the Black Diamond Trophy with Virginia Tech, facing Maryland and now kicking off the 2023 season on the road in State College in front of a packed Beaver Stadium atmosphere on NBC against Penn State.

While WVU has been gaining respect for playing rivals, most of the rest of the country, including their Big 12 peers, have been experiencing a different type of schedule to start each season.

West Virginia head coach Neal Brown was asked directly about his thoughts on regional rivalries, and while he expressed his full support for one of them, he took the opportunity to offer a view that’s quite contrary to what his program has been doing.

“We should play the Pitt game every year. I’m all in on the Backyard Brawl,” said Brown. He then took a pause and changed course on the rest of WVU’s regional rivalries.

As for the other regional rivalries, Brown added that it’s tough to continue playing them. Brown then explained his reasoning. He brought up that having only three non conference games available makes playing two in the same season not in the best interest of the program.

Brown said he feels an ideal out of conference schedule would be playing one quality Power 5 opponent (so Pitt), one Group of 5 opponent and then one FCS. This is the type of out of conference schedule that TCU used to make the College Football Playoff last year despite not even winning the Big 12 championship. This is the type of schedule elite programs like Georgia and Michigan are employing. This is the type of out of conference schedule similar programs like Maryland are using. And the ones playing two Power 5 teams in non conference play like Pitt usually have four such games, not just three like the Big 12 offers West Virginia.

Some will view this stance by Brown as making an excuse for presiding over a period that’s been the worst for the Mountaineers in a half century, but he’s also not wrong and far from the first person to say this. In fact, Brown is simply echoing what WVU’s director of athletics Wren Baker has continuously said since taking the job in Morgantown.

WVU AD Wren Baker Explains His Football Scheduling Philosophy

Obviously, WVU’s schedule, like everyone else’s, was constructed years in advance and Brown as a head coach wouldn’t even be the one making it anyway. But it’s safe to assume that when contacts with rivals are up and room opens on future schedules, it’s very likely West Virginia has realized the errors of their ways and will look to put together a schedule on par with others and what will give the program its best chance to get back to glory as a legitimate contender.

And as mentioned earlier, Brown’s job status won’t be a factor here because Baker has made his views on the matter crystal clear.

Get WVSN in your mailbox!

Enter your email address to subscribe to WVSN and receive notifications of new posts by email.