West Virginia Mountaineers two. Mother Nature one. In their season opener, the Mountaineers overcame a long lightning delay to beat Tennessee in Charlotte. Then, in Week two, West Virginia slogged through the constant heavy rain to beat Youngstown State in Morgantown. However, due to anticipated conditions caused by Hurricane Florence, adverse weather halts the Mountaineers’ hot start, as the programs announced the cancellation of this weekend’s game between the Mountaineers and the N.C. State Wolfpack.
Fans of both schools eagerly anticipated the match-up. In particular, both fan bases sought answers to the questions facing both teams’ defenses. The Mountaineers’ defense has surprised, as predicted here. In fact, Tony Gibson’s unit ranks 29th in yardage allowed and 31st in points surrendered. Will Grier has completed nearly 80% of his passes and has accumulated 761 yards with nine touchdowns to one interception. His passer rating of 229.4 ranks third in the nation, a great start to his Heisman campaign. As a result, the Mountaineer offense ranks third in the nation in yards per play.
The Mountaineers looked to end a three-game skid against ACC teams and complete a perfect out of conference slate for the third time in four seasons. N.C. State and West Virginia last met in 2010 in the Champs Sports Bowl, and the Mountaineers looked to avenge their 23-7 loss in that game.
What This Means
Mountaineer fans are left wondering what the cancelation means for their team. Will this adversely affect either Will Grier’s Heisman campaign or the team’s chance to make the playoff? Simply put, the cancelation reduces the margin of error. As it stood before today’s news, the Mountaineers were one of only a handful of teams to play 11 power 5 teams during the regular season. As a result, the Mountaineers strength of schedule was ranked in the top 30 coming into this season.
Because the perception of challenge factors into both the playoff committee’s selection process and Heisman voters’ thought processes while completing their ballots. The loss of a true away game against a Power Five opponent with a potent aerial attack cannot help the Mountaineers’ or Grier’s cases. That said, if the Mountaineers continue to win and Grier continues to put up big numbers, then that loss also should not hurt either at the end of the season. Moreover, the official announcement from N.C. State was simply that the game “will not be played this weekend,” so it is possible that the schools still find a way to reschedule it.
In the meantime, the Mountaineers defense still faces some questions, whether fair or unfair, over its secondary, and N.C. State would have presented West Virginia with its first true aerial challenge. Now, opposing teams will have less film to analyze going into Big 12 play, which could create a marginal advantage in favor of the Mountaineers. That said, with the number of pass-heavy offenses in the Big 12, it will not take long before teams find out whether this is a true weakness or simply a matter of game flow.
What Comes Next
For now, the Mountaineers enjoy an unexpected bye week. They will begin preparations for the September 22 matchup against Kansas State in Morgantown. In the meantime, the respective athletic departments will determine whether they can reschedule the game. Either way, the Mountaineers can only control their own fate by winning games. As shown here, the senior leaders of this team have already focused the troops on this task.