No longer in the Big East, the West Virginia Mountaineers join the very tough Big 12 this season. How will they fare with the likes of Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. We take a look at WV, its explosive offensive and suspect defense.
It was quite a season for the Mountaineers last year as they
went 5-2 in Big East play and finished with a highly respectable 10-3 record. That performance earned them an invitation to the Orange
Bowl, where they demolished Clemson 70-33 in a memorable game. QB Geno Smith absolutely tore it up in the victory, setting
three bowl records in the process. He ended up throwing for 401 yards and six touchdown passes and
added another rushing score for good measure. What a perfect way for the Mountaineers to finish their Big
East reign. Their only losses were to LSU, Louisville and Syracuse.
New era begins with a bang
Major props to Dana Holgorsen for the work he did in his
first season at the helm of West Virginia. What can he do now in the Big 12?
The schedule has been released, and it's no doubt going to be tough
for the Mountaineers. However, NCAAF odds makers are thinking they have a
great shot at matching their impressive season from last year and have them
listed at +3000 odds to win the BCS National Championship.
After a fairly straightforward non-conference schedule, they
play Baylor and Texas back-to-back in early October and then face off
against Kansas State two weeks later. In November they play TCU, Oklahoma State
and then finish things off with a monster home matchup with Oklahoma. Yikes!
The Mountaineers will have to adjust after
losing a few key guys on defense, including dominant linebacker Bruce Irvin, to
the draft. He was taken in the middle of the first round by the Seattle
Seahawks, while Najee Goode, another linebacker, was taken in the fifth round
by Tampa Bay. That's two big pieces that will be missing in the middle of the
defense this season.
However, a bulk of the offense returns. West Virginia is set at quarterback with Geno Smith coming
off a huge season last year. He finished with 4,385 yards and 31 touchdown
passes while throwing only seven picks.
Another explosive offense in Morgantown
Holgorsen brought with him a pass-based offensive system, and
Smith took that added responsibility and ran with it. Led by their star quarterback, the Mountaineers were ranked
sixth in all of college football in passing. They averaged 346.8 YPG, with Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin accounting for most of those yards. Those two receivers combined for 173 receptions, over 2,450
yards and 20 touchdown grabs. Austin will be a senior and Bailey a junior this season, and each should be a handful for Big 12 defenses to deal with.
West Virginia's offense is looking mighty promising, and
it'll certainly need to produce considering the level of talent in the Big 12: Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Kansas State, TCU. These are teams that are going to
put tons and tons of points on the board week in and week out.
The Mountaineers' defense is really going to be the huge
question mark for the upcoming season. After losing some important pieces and changing their
schemes during the offseason, we'll see soon enough if they have what it takes
to hold down some of these Big 12 powerhouses.
Many will be interested to
see how West Virginia adjusts to a new conference, but they definitely have the
pieces, primarily on offense, to give a lot of those teams a run for their