MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Part of the reason WVU has one of the hardest schedules in all of the Football Bowl Subdivision is because of its nonconference schedule.

In its annual college football superlatives, ESPN even went as far as saying that WVU has the “toughest open to the season” in all of Division I football.

In addition to the Backyard Brawl, the Mountaineers start their home-and-home series with Penn State to start the season, marking the fourth time in Brown’s tenure at WVU will play two regional Power-5 nonconference opponents in one season.

The only season in which WVU didn’t compete against two Power-5 teams in pre-Big 12 play was in 2020 when ACC scheduling stipulations forced a cancelation of the previously scheduled Chick-fil-A College Kickoff between WVU and Florida State due to the coronavirus.

Still, WVU head coach Neal Brown believes that it is in the best interest of the program to play just one regional marquee matchup during the nonconference season.

“The Pitt game should be played every year,” Brown said. “I think it’s one of the best rivalries in all of college football, and so we should play that every year, [but] it makes it harder to play those other regional games.”

With the Big 12’s pedigree growing following recent expansion, Brown believes that their conference schedule will already be difficult in the eyes of bowl and playoff committees. In his eyes, adding another guaranteed home game against a lower-level team would be beneficial for the fans and the program.

“What’s best for the program, I think, is you play that Pitt game, you play a (Group of 5) game at home, you play an FCS (opponent) at home, and [then] you’re going to play nine league games which should give you seven home games every year,” Brown said. “I think that’s the best opportunity for success. I think it’s the best for our fanbase to have a seventh home game every year, and it allows you the opportunity to really build some momentum early in the year.”

When the conference schedule is inherently difficult, why make the path to a bowl game more difficult if it doesn’t need to be?

“I don’t think its in [our] best interest to play those games in the same calendar year,” he said.