West Virginia Football Predictions
Dana Holgorsen wasted no time making his mark at West Virginia. After three straight seasons with nine wins, Holgorsen led the Mountaineers to a 10-3 season, which was capped by a 70-33 rout of Clemson in the Orange Bowl.
There are those who doubt West Virginia’s success in the Big East will translate to the stronger Big 12. While I agree with the doubters that life will be more difficult facing schools like Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas, I also realize that Holgorsen, who knows the Big 12 well, knows what it takes to win in the conference.
The Mountaineers boasted the most prolific offense in the Big East last season, and they should be among the best offenses in the Big 12 this year.
They ranked 13th nationally in scoring in 2011 with 37.6 points per game. They finished 15th in the country in total offense with 469.5 yards per contest. Led by quarterback Geno Smith, who completed 65.8 percent of his passes for 4,385 yards with 31 touchdowns and seven interceptions, they were potent through the air, ranking sixth in the nation with 346.9 passing yards per game.
Smith could exceed last season’s gaudy numbers now that he’s had a year to get comfortable with Holgorsen’s system. Plus, he will benefit from the return of playmaker Tavon Austin, who caught 101 passes for 1,186 yards and eight scores a year ago.
Last season’s leading rusher, Dustin Garrison, who ran for 742 yards and six touchdowns, is rehabbing following a December ACL tear. This means, Shawne Alston, who rushed for 416 yards and 12 scores, will likely be the starter.
Three starters are back along the offensive line. This group may be tested the most as it faces much more physical defensive lines week after week.
Holgorsen knows his stop unit, which ranked third in the Big East (33rd nationally) in total defense last season with 348.2 yards allowed per game, must be better in order to contain the explosive offenses of the Big 12. He believes making a switch from a 3-3-5 odd stack to a 3-4 base will bring the improvement he’s looking for.
West Virginia’s pass rush took a hit with the loss of defensive ends Bruce Irvin and Julian Miller. Fortunately, nose tackle Jorge Wright and defensive tackle Will Clarke return to keep the interior respectable.
The linebacker unit has some experience. It’s led by STAR backer Terence Garvin, who had 72 tackles (5.5 for loss) in 2011. BUCK backer Jewone Snow, SAM backer Doug Rigg and WILL backer Josh Francis also have experience.
The secondary looks to be the strength of the defense as all four projected starters have starting experience. Junior safety Darwin Cook, who is the team’s top returning tackler with 85 stops, anchors the unit.
Big 12 Prediction – 3rd Place
We saw the way Holgorsen’s offense helped Oklahoma State take the Big 12 by storm in 2010. I expect his offense to help West Virginia enjoy similar success in its inaugural year in the conference.
The Mountaineers likely won’t bring home a Big 12 title because of their defense, but the offense is good enough to keep them in every game. I believe games at Texas and Oklahoma State and a home game against Oklahoma are their only potential stumbling blocks, which means a second straight 10-win campaign is well within reach.
|Oklahoma||Texas||West Virginia||Oklahoma State||Baylor|
|TCU||Kansas State||Texas Tech||Iowa State||Kansas|
|ACC||Big 12||Big East||Big Ten|
|Conference USA||Independents||MAC||Mountain West|