MORGANTOWN - With Pitt now off the schedule, the Marshall series in the rear-view mirror and the Big East - and, for that matter, Eastern football as a whole - only a memory, there's pretty much no one left on West Virginia's football slate that can be considered a traditional rival.
Well, there's pretty much no one, but it's not a total washout just yet.
Maryland is still around, the teams having squared off in 30 of the last 32 years. They will meet again today when the No. 8 Mountaineers (2-0) play the Terps (2-1) at Mountaineer Field in a noon game that will be televised by FX.
In a season like this one, as West Virginia dives head first into the uncharted waters of the Big 12, so many rivalries have been lost, perhaps forever. Games with names (the Backyard Brawl vs. Pitt and, yes, even the Coal Bowl with Marshall) are gone. Ditto games with awards (the Schwartzwalder Trophy at Syracuse or the Black Diamond Trophy that has gathered dust at Virginia Tech since 2005). It's possible even to lament the passing of a series with Rutgers, which was never very sexy but at least had the consistency of both duration (32 straight years) and outcome (17 straight WVU wins).
Shoot, even Dana Holgorsen, who pretty much embodies how things have changed so quickly at West Virginia, likes to embrace the rivalry with Maryland because it is the only one left.
"It's important,'' Holgorsen said this week. "This series is one of the few remaining rival games because it's a neighboring state and we have a history with them.''
There are a lot of reasons that maintaining at least a handful of natural rivalries is good for a program. Holgorsen pointed to a couple, namely familiarity to the fans and an ability to draw upon certain segments of the players themselves for motivation.
"Every game is important, and I think from a fan base that this one is pretty important,'' Holgorsen said. "And I think we have 10 or 12 guys from Maryland and it's going to be important to them.
"That's one of the things last year that was big. Like when we went and played at Cincinnati, the Ohio guys got everybody cranked up. When we went and played Maryland, the Maryland people got people cranked up. When we went and played South Florida, the south Florida kids got people cranked up. And when we went and played Rutgers, the Jersey kids got people cranked up.''