Bet at 5dimes

Despite closing out the season just 1-4, which included a 37-45 loss to Texas A&M in the Liberty Bowl, West Virginia surprised a lot of people by going 7-6. Keep in mind they had just gone 4-8 the previous year, where they posted a 2-7 record inside Big 12 play.

Last year’s 5-4 conference record was their first winning mark since joining the Big 12 in 2012. Their biggest win came at home, where they stunned No. 4 Baylor 41-27. They also gave TCU a run for their money, losing 30-31 at home on a last second field goal. Not to mention they played Alabama tough in the season opener, losing by a final of just 23-33.

Entering what will be the 5th year under head coach Dana Holgorsen, West Virginia is a team that can’t be taken lightly in 2015. The Mountaineers return 15 starters, there most since 2010 and lose a mere 17 lettermen. This has the chance to be Holgorsen’s best team since they joined the Big 12, but it won’t be easy moving up the standings with the level of talent at the top of this conference.

Last Season
Big 12
ATS Record
Points For
Points Against
5-4 (T-4th)
Date Opponent
Spread (Est.)
Win Chance
9/5  Georgia Southern
9/12  Liberty
9/26  Maryland
10/3  @ Oklahoma
10/10  Oklahoma State
10/17  @ Baylor
10/29  @ TCU
11/7  Texas Tech
11/14  Texas
11/21  @ Kansas
11/28  Iowa State
12/5  @ Kansas State
Estimated Wins: 7.26
Roster Breakdown

The offense bounced back in a big way in 2014. West Virginia averaged 33.5 ppg and 500 ypg after only putting up 26.3 ppg and 411 ypg in 2013. A big reason for that was the improved play of senior quarterback Clint Trickett, who went from completing a mere 52.8% of his passes in 2013 to a staggering 67.1% in his final year.

With Trickett departed, the Mountaineers figure to turn to junior Skyler Howard as their new signal caller. While Howard only completed 50.9% of his attempts, he did show some promise when he got to start the final 2, including 346 yards and 3 touchdowns in the bowl game against Texas A&M. Howard also has the ability to beat teams with his feet. He had 140 yards on just 22 attempts (6.4 yards/carry), so expect to see a lot more zone reads in 2015.

Having a mobile quarterback that the defensive front has to account for tends to open up things for the running backs. With West Virginia returning their dynamic duo in the backfield of Rushel Shell (788 yards, 7 TDs) and Wendell Smallwood (722 yards, 2 TDs), opposing defenses are going to have their hands full trying to stop the Mountaineers rushing attack.

While there’s reason to be optimistic about Howard and the duo of Shell and Smallwood, there are some question marks on this side of the ball. Most notably how the team is going to replace the production of wide outs Kevin White (109 catches, 1,447 yards, 10 TDs) and Mario Alford (65 catches, 945 yards, 11 TDs). They also lose two talented guards up front on the offensive line in Mark Glowinski (1st-Team All-Big 12) and Quinton Spain (2nd-Team All-Big 12).

What has a lot of people excited in Morgantown about this year’s team, is a defense that returns 9 starters and 9 of their top 10 tacklers from a unit that made some big strides in 2014. West Virginia allowed just 27.6 ppg and 399 ypg, which was a healthy improvement from the 33.3 ppg and 455 ypg they gave up in 2013. One of things that really stands out to me is they allowed just 58 combined points in their two games against TCU and Baylor, the next best was Kansas State, who allowed 79.

The Mountaineers will have to replace 3rd-Team All-Big 12 defensive end Shaquille Riddick in their 3-4 front, but return senior starting nose tackle Kyle Rose and junior defensive end Noble Nwachukwu. Last year Riddick made a big impact as a transfer and they are hoping for more of the same with the additions of junior college transfer defensive end Larry Jefferson and defensive tackle Xavier Pegues.

West Virginia looks to have one of their better linebacker corps in recent memory. The only starter from the unit that departs is Wes Tonkery, but he doesn’t figured to be missed. They get back senior Nick Kwiatoski, who led the team with 103 tackles, along with senior K.J. Dillon and talented sophomore Xavier Preston. Replacing Tonkery will be senior Jared Barber, who started 7 games in 2013 but was lost to a season-ending injury prior the 2014 campaign.

Not only do the Mountaineers look to have one of the better starting linebacker units in the Big 12, they also figure to have one of the strongest secondaries in the conference. West Virginia gets back all 4 starters, including 1st-Team All-Big 12 safety Karl Joseph, who will be playing alongside talented sophomore safety Dravon Henry (45 tackles, 2 INTs as a true freshman).

Future Odds
Regular Season Win Total
Big 12 Championship Odds
Playoff Odds
National Championship Odds
Odds Courtesy of 5Dimes
Season Predictions

I had a difficult time not picking West Virginia higher in the standings, as the Mountaineers have the look of a legit sleeper in the Big 12. The only game that they weren’t competitive in, was a 16-33 loss at Texas, which came the week following that heartbreaking 30-31 home loss to TCU.

My main reason for not picking West Virginia to finish with a better record inside the conference, is the fact that they go from hosting the top 3 in Baylor, TCU and Oklahoma, to having to face all 3 on the road. They also have to go on the road to face Kansas and Kansas State, giving them 5 Big 12 road games.

I have them losing to the three powers and dropping either their road game at Kansas State or one of two home games against Texas or Oklahoma State, leaving them with a 5-4 record inside the conference and 8-4 mark overall. Given their potential to exceed my expectations, I definitely think there’s some nice value in them going OVER their win total of 7.5.

2015 Projections
Big 12
Big 12 Record
Overall Record
Win Total Prediction
OVER 7.5



UNDER 8 Wins – WVU finished last year with a 7-5 regular season record and this number calls for them to win an extra 2 full games to get over this number. With an inexperienced QB and a young offensive line (just 48 returning starts along the front) we don’t think they will. Last year’s QB Trickett who threw for 3,300 yards is gone. It looks like Skyler Howard, who attempted 110 passes last year, will most likely step into that role. He’ll have a solid running game to help him out with RB’s Shell & Smallwood back after combining for over 1,500 yards. He’ll need someone to step up in the receiving game after losing two top notch receivers (White & Alford) who put up nearly 2,500 yards. The defense should be very solid. They bring back 9 of their top 10 tacklers and project to start 9 upperclassmen. We expect this year’s stop unit to be WVU’s best since 2010 when they allowed only 13 PPG on 261 YPG. The non-conference schedule is easy but once they hit the Big 12 they have to travel to the top 3 teams in the league (TCU, Baylor, and Oklahoma). We have them favored in exactly 8 games (which is their total this year) but feel it’s more likely they hit 7 rather than 9.

John Radcliff

John Radcliff

OVER 7.5 Wins – Our out of conference schedule is obviously much easier this year with no Alabama and getting Maryland at home. There are nine games on the schedule that we should expect to win, with OU, Baylor, and TCU being games we will be a considerable underdog.

The biggest problem is that we will be playing (possibly) 3 top ten teams in October (OU, BU, TCU all on the road) and Oklahoma State is expected to be much improved. How we handle that stretch in the middle of the season will define the team.

If we can steal one on the road and beat Oklahoma State at home, a ten win season is a real possibility. If we don’t win any of those games, we could be looking at a six win season. I’m optimistic, though. So I’m going with nine wins. The depth and overall talent is better than it’s been since Holgorsen came to WVU. Our only real question mark is who’s going to step up at the wide receiver position.

Brandon Priddy

Brandon Priddy

OVER 7.5 Wins – If you set the WVU o/u at 7.5 I take the over…..just barely. First off I look at the WVU nonconference schedule and see winnable games with Ga. Southern, Liberty and Maryland at home; 3 games they should expect to win. In conference they’ve got 3 huge swing games at home – Texas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma St. If they can beat Iowa St and Kansas, take 2 of those 3 and steal one other game (I’m looking at the finale at Kanas St as I say this) that gets them to 8. Finally there’s the intangible. Without getting into the stats, WVU’s fumble luck was horrid last year. They didn’t get one till November 1st against TCU and were last nationally. If what is expected to be a nasty defense can get some of those bounces that could give them the nudge to get them over the top. I say 5-4 in conf, 3-0 nonconf, 8-4 total.

Jeremy Simon

Jeremy Simon

OVER 7.5 Wins – The Mountaineers should handle their first three games of the season against Georgia Southern, Liberty and Maryland all at home. However, October presents as brutal a schedule as you will see in college football with games at Oklahoma, at TCU, and at Baylor.

The pivotal game when determining whether to take the over or under is Oklahoma State at home on October 10th. The Cowboys will come into Morgantown for homecoming weekend while the Mountaineers will be a week removed from a trip to Norman.

The late season schedule favors the Mountaineers and if they can get through October 4-3 or better an 8 win season is very likely.

Michael Miller

Michael Miller

OVER 7.5 Wins – West Virginia should be able to roll into Norman sitting at 3-0, and I believe they have a great chance to shock Oklahoma and finally pick up their first win over the Sooners since joining the Big 12 thanks to what is going to be a stellar West Virginia defense and the turnover battle finally going in West Virginia’s favor.

Coming off the win over Oklahoma, West Virginia is looking at their toughest stretch. Oklahoma State could slip away with the win in Morgantown while the Mountaineers suffer the hangover of the big win against Oklahoma. Following that, the Mountaineers have to travel to Waco and Fort Worth to play what should be the top two teams in the Big 12, and we could be looking at a 4-3 team.

The good news for the Mountaineers is that the back end of the schedule is much easier with Texas and Texas Tech at home, and if they can shake the cobwebs they can easily win out and finish 9-3 (6-3 Big 12, 3-0 Non-Conference), and finish in the top 4 of the Big 12.

More College Football Predictions