Way too Early 2020 Season Prediction

Schuyler Callihan

The inaugural season of the Neal Brown era is officially in the books and despite a disappointing 5-7 campaign, the future looks bright. The Mountaineers won two of its last three games and had a chance to beat Oklahoma State as well. Missing out on a bowl game hurts in that there won't be extra practices for the developmental guys to get more reps, but by not making one could also serve as motivation for the 2020 season.

It's a long ways away from next season kicking off, but it's always fun to look ahead right? Well, today, that's exactly what we're going to do. Although these predictions won't necessarily be the same come August, it's a ground level expectation for 2020. 

Sep. 5

vs Florida State (Chick-fil-a Kickoff)

Atlanta, Ga. 

Photo by Glenn Beil-USA Today Sports

As the Mountaineers head into year two under Brown, Florida State will be heading into year one with former Memphis head coach Mike Norvell. In four seasons as the head coach of the Memphis Tigers, Norvell posted a 38-15 record, including 4 straight bowl appearances and a C-USA championship in 2019.

Norvell is a brilliant offensive mind and knows how to move the football, which is something the Seminoles have struggled with since Jimbo Fisher's departure. With a lot of unknowns, it's hard to see where Florida State will be come September 5th, but I expect a much more disciplined team and one that improves on the offensive side no matter who is under center.

As for West Virginia, I think Jarret Doege will win the starting job and continue to build off of his late season success in 2019. The biggest question mark will be if the offensive line improves in the run game.

Prediction: WVU, 28-24. Too many unknowns for Florida State and West Virginia has momentum rolling into next season. It will be close, but I'll give the edge to the Mountaineers.

Current Record: 1-0.

Sep. 12

vs Eastern Kentucky

Morgantown, WV

Photo by Jamie Rhodes-USA Today Sports

The Mountaineers will face another first-year head coach in Walt Wells when they kickoff its home opener against the Colonels. Wells was a member of the Kentucky coaching staff as a quality control assistant for the past two seasons and will be taking a head coaching gig for the first time in his career.

Prediction: WVU, 48-14. Eastern Kentucky has been an average to above average FCS team the last handful of years, but they won't have enough firepower to keep up with Doege and company. 

Current Record: 2-0.

Sep. 19

vs Maryland

Morgantown, WV

Photo by Tommy Gilligan-USA Today Sports

The Terps got off to a hot start under first year head coach Mike Locksley, defeating Howard 79-0 and then defeating then-21st ranked Syracuse 63-20. However, that's about as far as the excitement would go in 2019 as Maryland lost nine of its next ten to finish the season 3-9. 

Prediction: WVU, 38-20. Maryland has some bright spots on the offensive side of the ball, but the defense was miserable in 2019 and may take another year or two to improve.

Current Record: 3-0.

Sep. 26

vs Kansas State (Homecoming)

Morgantown, WV

Photo by Scott Sewell-USA Today Sports

One of the Mountaineers victories came against these very Wildcats in a thrilling come back win led by quarterback Jarret Doege. Kansas State finished its first season under Chris Klieman with an 8-4 record and although they lost to West Virginia, they may be slightly ahead in the rebuilding process.

If the Wildcats want to take that next step in 2020, the offense must improve under quarterback Skylar Thompson.

Prediction: WVU, 28-21. For some reason, West Virginia doesn't play around on homecoming. In fact, the Mountaineers are 8-1 in their last nine homecoming games, with two of those being against Kansas State. Klieman's bunch will play a tough game, but a lack of explosive plays will cost them.

Current Record: 4-0 (1-0).

Oct. 3

at Texas Tech

Lubbock, TX

Photo by Ben Queen-USA Today Sports

The Red Raiders absolutely embarrassed West Virginia this year, scoring on their first five drives of the game to eventually go onto win, 38-17. Something tells me that will not sit well with the returning players.

Prediction: WVU, 41-31. Texas Tech will always put up big numbers offensively, but West Virginia will have this game circled on their calendar to start the year. A couple of key turnovers from the defense help secure a shootout in Lubbock and the Mountaineers are off to a blazing 5-0 start.

Current Record: 5-0 (2-0).

Oct. 10

vs TCU

Morgantown, WV

Photo by Kirby Lee-USA Today Sports

It was a disappointing season in Fort Worth as the Horned Frogs failed to make a bowl game thanks to West Virginia, who prevented them from that on the final weekend of the season. This has been a back and forth series and has for the most part always been a good game.

Predicition: TCU, 35-27. TCU's offense wasn't the greatest in 2019, but they have one of the fastest quarterbacks in the country in Max Duggan. I expect Duggan to take that next step as a passer which help TCU out tremendously. West Virginia gets caught looking ahead to a big matchup with Texas and drops one at home.

Current Record: 5-1 (2-1).

Oct. 17

at Texas

Austin, TX

Photo by Jerome Miron-USA Today Sports

The Longhorns were not only the biggest disappointment in the Big 12, but maybe that nation's biggest let down. Everyone was riding high on a Sam Ehlinger-led team and disregarded the facts about their young defense. This will be a seat warming year for head coach Tom Herman.

Prediction: Texas, 40-28. One game beats West Virginia twice and the defense doesn't have an answer for Ehlinger. Texas pounds away on the ground and gets a late touchdown to secure the win.

Current Record: 5-2 (2-2).

Oct. 24

vs Kansas

Morgantown, WV

Photo by Rob Ferguson-USA Today Sports

The Jayhawks hope to turn the tide in 2020, but will it be as quick as they hope? They had some high points last year beating Boston College on the road, knocking off Texas Tech in league play and nearly beat Texas, falling 50-48.

Prediction: WVU, 21-17. The Jayhawks make their next step in the rebuild and gives West Virginia a challenge. A sloppy game from both teams results in a low scoring affair, but the Mountaineers find a way to get back in the win column and snap a two game skid.

Current Record: 6-2 (3-2).

Nov. 7

vs Oklahoma

Morgantown, WV

Photo by Jerome Miron-USA Today Sports

The Sooners are back in the College Football Playoff once again after claiming their fifth-consecutive Big 12 championship. Lincoln Riley has it rolling in Norman, catching some attention from the NFL. Whether he bolts to the NFL or not, Oklahoma will find somebody that would continue the dominance they have had as of late. 

Prediction: Oklahoma, 45-20. To say the Sooners have been a thorn in the Mountaineers side is an understatement. They find their next quarterback in Spencer Rattler and put on a show in Morgantown.

Current Record: 6-3 (3-3).

Nov. 14

at Oklahoma State

Stillwater, OK

Photo by Rob Ferguson-USA Today Sports

The Cowboys surprised some people this year, thanks to the young freshman quarterback Spencer Sanders. You can expect that Oklahoma State will be back in consideration for the Big 12 championship game as early as next year. Just like Oklahoma, the Pokes have been a problem for West Virginia since joining the Big 12.

Prediction: Oklahoma State, 30-20. West Virginia has a hard time bouncing back from a loss again and hits their second two-game skid of the season. Boone Pickens Stadium is a tough place to play, especially for what will still be a very young West Virginia team.

Current Record: 6-4 (3-4).

Nov 21. 

vs Baylor

Morgantown, WV

Photo by Jay Biggerstaff-USA Today Sports

Matt Rhule has done a phenomenal job getting the Bears back to the top of the league. Just two years ago, Baylor went 1-11. This year? Well, they completely inverted that record and went 11-1 and claimed a spot in the Big 12 title game. Charlie Brewer will return at quarterback and will only get better in 2020.

Prediction: Baylor, 48-45. It's a shootout in Morgantown, but the Bears are just too talented and will be competing for a Big 12 title once again. Brewer and Doege have huge days, but a field goal decides it, extending the Mountaineers losing streak to three.

Current Record: 6-5 (3-5).

Nov. 28 

at Iowa State

Ames, IA

Photo by Reese Strickland-USA Today Sports

Matt Campbell has done a good job of getting the Cyclones back to competitive football, but hasn't really got it going in Ames, yet. Brock Purdy will be entering his third season as the Cyclones starter at quarterback and will be one of the most experienced in the league. Iowa State has won two straight over West Virginia and the last time they went to Ames, well, yeah I won't bring that up.

Prediction: WVU, 23-14. A weird game in Ames as West Virginia will get a safety and punt return for a touchdown and trail 12-9 at the half. Iowa State gets a safety of their own, but the Mountaineers grab two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to win the season finale. Why the craziness? Well, why not? After all, this is a prediction for a game nearly a year away.

Current Record: 7-5 (4-5).

AutoZone Liberty Bowl

Date TBA

vs Ole Miss

Photo by Jasen Vinlove-USA Today Sports

The Mountaineers go bowling for the first time under head coach Neal Brown and draw the Liberty Bowl against a 6-6 Ole Miss team under new head coach Lane Kiffin. Wouldn't this be a hell of a game to see?

Prediction: WVU, 29-24. For the second straight season under Brown, the Mountaineers will take momentum into the off-season. The "Lane Train" hype comes back down to earth as the Rebels offense struggles to muster up 250 yards in this one.

Final Record: 8-5 (4-5).