West Virginia University football is no stranger to the Top 25, and national recognition. In the history of the program, the Mountaineers are 706–458–45, placing them 14th among all FBS football teams. The university itself has the most wins of any school that hasn’t won a national championship. The program has won 15 conference championships, eight Southern Conference championships, and seven Big East championships.
In the past, WVU has had some great teams, and been close to winning a national championship, but never sealed the deal. The closest the Mountaineers have ever come to winning one was in 1988 when they went to the national championship game against #1 Notre Dame Fighting Irish and lost 21-34.
The Mountaineers were ranked number one in the AP polls in week 14 of the 2007 season, and looked to be unstoppable. Led by Pat White, Steve Slaton and Owen Schmitt, the 2007 Mountaineers triumphed throughout the season. It appeared to be their time to finally win the school’s first championship. In the final regular season game against unranked rival, the Pittsburgh Panthers, the Mountaineers lost to the 28 ½ point underdogs. Mountaineer nation was in shock. WVU had many chances to win the game, but could never convert.
The last ten years of Mountaineer football have yielded “a new era” for the school. The Mountaineers are 95-33 since 2002, made a bowl game all ten years, and finished in the AP Top 25 seven of the ten years. The Mountaineers finished with 11 wins from 2005-2007, but never won a national championship.
This makes me wonder if the school is ever going to “take the leap” of becoming a national championship contender. I’m not one to believe in curses, but it seems a little suspicious that no matter how good a WVU team has been in the past, something always causes it to stumble on someone in the regular season.
In 2006 the Mountaineers lost to a strong Louisville Cardinals team, knocking them out of National Championship contention.
In 2007 the top 5 ranked Mountaineers, lost to the USF Bulls and Pitt forfeiting their high ranking and dropping out of National Championship contention.
2010 had the #20 Mountaineers losing 19-14 to an unranked Syracuse Orange team in Morgantown, costing them the chance to break into the top 15.
In 2011 the #15 Mountaineers got smacked by the Syracuse Orange in Syracuse 49-29, costing the Mountaineers a chance to break the top 10.
In 2002 the Mountaineers lost another chance to break the top 10.
…and so on.
It definitely makes a person think twice about the whole curse thing.
So, do I think the Mountaineers will ever have a team capable of winning a championship?
Only time will tell.
I think the Mountaineers are closer to winning a championship now than ever. The Big XII gives them the recruiting advantage they need in order to build a powerhouse. In order to win a national championship, a team needs to be competitive on all three sides of the football. They need a strong offense, a strong defense and strong special teams.
I’m beginning to believe that having an extreme advantage in only one of these areas is not enough. Look at this year’s WVU team. An explosive offense can be negated if the defense can’t stop people from scoring.
WVU has had a number of teams in the past that were very good in a particular area, and simply average in another. Until they can build a talented team on all sides of the ball, they will continue to struggle for a championship.
I don’t think this will happen any time soon, however, I think it will eventually happen. I think the Mountaineers will win their first national championship within the next ten years.
Follow Mike Atkinson on Twitter at @MikeAtkinsonRS or visit his author page at http://www.rantsports.com/ncaa-football/author/mikeatkinson/.