Yesterday I took a look at the first half of the 2012 schedule for West Virginia in its inaugural Big XII season, which can be found here:
A 5-1 start, with the possibility of a 6-0 start if things break right in Austin, will set the Mountaineers up for the tougher portion of the schedule, a gauntlet that includes 4 teams that finished in the Top 25 last season.
October 20, 2012
Kansas State rolls into Morgantown, featuring QB Collin Klein and what figures to be an improved defense. The Wildcats overachieved mightily in 2011 thanks to committing few turnovers (10 turnovers in their last 11 games), winning special teams, controlling the clock (average time of possession of nearly 34:00 a game), and winning pretty much every close game they were in (6-1 in games decided by 7 points or less). Kansas State will be well-coached, will run the ball to keep the WVU offense off the field and try to neutralize the crowd, and will keep it close, but at the end of the day the Mountaineers will just have too much for the Wildcats. Prediction: WVU 31-24.
November 3, 2012
In a game that was supposed to be a matchup of the top two teams in the 2012 Big East, TCU travels to Morgantown in early November for a game between the two new additions to the Big XII. TCU faces a brutal back half of its schedule, coming to Morgantown the week after it plays in Stillwater and two weeks before it closes with Texas and Oklahoma. TCU’s defense, long its calling card, has been gutted a bit by graduation and expulsion, but QB Casey Pashall and WR Josh Boyce lead what should be an explosive offense. TCU has competed with the big boys when given the opportunity over the past decade, but it remains to be seen if they can do it week in, week out (although the same can probably be said of WVU). Morgantown will be TCU’s 3rd road game in 4 weeks against teams that finished in the Top 20 in 2011, and it will simply prove to be too much to ask. Prediction: WVU 38-21.
November 10, 2012
Someday I’ll be able to think of “Stillwater” as the town in Oklahoma and not the band from Almost Famous, and WVU’s trip to play Oklahoma State should be a good start. Dana Holgorson returns to face his former boss, Mike Gundy, and an Oklahoma State team that is something of an unknown quantity. Brandon Weeden and Justin Blackmon are gone to the NFL, and Oklahoma State appears set to start a true freshman, Wes Lunt, at QB. The Cowboys have 8 starters back from an inconsistent defense, as well as RB Joseph Randle, who may be the best RB in the Big XII. Assuming Lunt has settled in by the time this game rolls around, it figures to be a classic Big XII shootout. Unfortunately, it Randle figures to be too much for WVU’s undersized front seven, as the Cowboys will ultimately wear the Mountaineers down. Prediction: Oklahoma State 38-31.
November 17, 2012
The preseason Big XII favorites roll into Morgantown the Saturday before Thanksgiving, featuring two of the top QB’s in the country in Geno Smith and Landry Jones. Oklahoma is no stranger to WVU, having been pasted by the Mountaineers in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl. The Sooners’ defense was uncharacteristically porous in 2011, leading to the return of Mike Stoops as defensive coordinator and the exit of Brett Venables to Clemson. Assuming the defense shows some improvement, Oklahoma will roll into Morgantown at 9-0 to face WVU the week before Bedlam. The scene in Morgantown is going to be incredible, and this will be the night that the Mountaineers will stake their claim as a true contender in the Big XII and ding the National Championship hopes of the Sooners. Prediction: WVU 31-27.
November 23, 2012
It would be hard to create a game that screams “trap” more than this one does. After four straight games against teams that finished the 2011 season ranked, WVU heads to Ames on a short week to play Iowa State the day after Thanksgiving. As the Cylcones showed last year when upsetting Oklahoma State, Paul Rhoads can coach and they can be very dangerous at home. Fortunately for WVU, Iowa State’s lack of a pass rush and inconsistent QB play makes this a game that will be close but that WVU should survive. Prediction: WVU 28-24.
December 1, 2012
WVU closes the season with a visit from Charlie Weis’ Kansas Jayhawks. Kansas featured the worst defense in college football in 2011, giving up 59 or more points on 4 separate occasions…but the good news is that most of those players are gone. Kansas did add Notre Dame-transfer QB Dayne Crist and several other transfers, but Kansas will be hard-pressed to exceed 2011′s 2-10/0-9 record. Weis is a polarizing figure with questionable head coaching credentials, but even Vince Lombardi would struggle with the bare cupboard he inherits. But hey, at least basketball season will be underway. Prediction: WVU 55-10.
The 2012 season will be a brave new world for West Virginia University, and one that figures to end with a 10-2 record and should warrant playing in a BCS game in the final year of this BCS configuration. With some breaks and good health, the offense is good enough to even exceed this prediction and get in the mix for a huge, huge year. With some bad breaks and injuries, the defense is suspect enough that an 8-4 or 9-3 season could be the reality. Either way, it’s going to be a lot of fun to watch.