After going 10-3 last season, coach Dana Holgorsen said he finally feels like the West Virginia Mountaineers are a part of the Big 12. It’s been five years since they moved to the conference and last season was easily their best, posting seven league wins to tie for second place behind Oklahoma. That didn’t get them a conference crown, but this year a second-place finish will put them in the Big 12 Championship game, and playing for a title is all you can ask for. But the Mountaineers will be hard-pressed to replicate their success from a season ago.
2016 Record: 10-3 SU, 5-8 ATS, 5-8 O/U
2017 Regular Season Win Total: 6.5
National Championship Odds: +10000
Odds To Win Big 12: +2150
The season couldn’t have started any better for the Mountaineers. They handled Missouri and Youngstown State to get out of the gate quickly. They got past BYU and edged Kansas State in the Big 12 opener, then rolled over Texas Tech and TCU to go 6-0 and get to No. 10 in the AP poll. The defense was tough, allowing more than 21 points just once in the opening stretch.
The offense wasn’t bad either. Led by Skyler Howard, the Mountaineers put up at least 34 points four times in those first six games and made their 17 points stick against K-State. WVU came back down in the second half when the schedule got a little more challenging. The Mountaineers lost for the first time falling by 17 to Oklahoma State and they were throttled three weeks later by Oklahoma, losing 56-28.
The Mountaineers snuck by Texas 24-20 and Baylor 24-21 in the final regular season game, leading many to believe they weren’t as good as the first half of the season suggested. A 31-14 loss to Miami in the Russell Athletic Bowl proved the point. The defense was good, by Big 12 standards, over the second half while the offense took a step back. The level of competition had plenty to do with that, but WVU managed to have balance in their attack rushing for 257 yards per game while passing for 228.
Holgorsen landed a good one in Will Grier to replace Howard at quarterback. Grier had a great start at Florida before getting suspended and he should be well rested. The passing game wasn’t the main focus of the offense last season, but with Grier the hope is that WVU will be able to throw the ball with more efficiency. New coordinator Jake Spavital likes to air it out but the receivers will dictate how that goes. The Mountaineers lost their top two pass-catchers from last season and need others to step up.
We’ll see the Mountaineers lean heavily on the run game with an abundance of quality backs. Justin Crawford will be the workhorse after gaining nearly 1,200 yards and averaging 7.3 yards per carry last season while splitting time in the backfield. Kennedy McKoy and Martell Pettaway combined for 732 yards while filling in for Crawford and Rushel Shell. Balance should again be the trademark of the WVU offense if Grier can perform for a full season like he did in half a season for the Gators.
The team lost several players from a very good defense and it’s hard to imagine this group being as good. The line has to be rebuilt and the corners are a concern, which could lead to some out of control scores in the Big 12. WVU travels to Oklahoma, Kansas State, Baylor and TCU in league play and gets a good Virginia Tech team out of the chute, making a 10-win season less likely.
Week 1: West Virginia vs. Virginia Tech, Sunday, September 3 (Landover MD)
Week 2: West Virginia vs. East Carolina, Saturday, September 9
Week 3: West Virginia vs. Delaware State, Saturday, September 16
Week 4: West Virginia at Kansas, Saturday, September 23
Week 5: OFF
Week 6: West Virginia at TCU, Saturday, October 7
Week 7: West Virginia vs. Texas Tech, Saturday, October 14
Week 8: West Virginia at Baylor, Saturday, October 21
Week 9: West Virginia vs. Oklahoma State, Saturday, October 28
Week 10: West Virginia vs. Iowa State, Saturday, November 4
Week 11: West Virginia at Kansas State, Saturday, November 11
Week 12: West Virginia vs. Texas, Saturday, November 18
Week 13: West Virginia at Oklahoma, Saturday, November 25
|SEC Conference||Big 10 Conference|
|ACC Conference||Big 12 Conference|
|Pac 12 Conference||Big East Conference|
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