The West Virginia football team will kick things off against the William & Mary Tribe on Aug. 31 at noon. Fox Sports 1 will carry it live on the first major college football Saturday of the season. Head coach Dana Holgorsen begins his third campaign with the Mountaineers, owning a career record of (17-9).
Let’s take a look at some of the key points for this year’s opening matchup.
Three key points William & Mary can use to capitalize against West Virginia:
- The Tribe returns seven all-conference players. They must rely on the guys with experience to play well. If they do, they might be able to flip the switch on the Mountaineers.
- The turnover battle. William & Mary can stay in the game by getting pressure on WVU’s inexperienced quarterbacks. The Mountaineer offensive line is also inexperienced compared with last year’s, if the Tribe can force some stops, anything could happen. Interceptions are also key; any way William & Mary can even the playing field, they’ll certainly take it.
- Special teams. This is always a great way to even the score. Blocking a punt or returning a kickoff for a touchdown would be a real confidence boost, especially if it happens early in the game. WVU is breaking in some new kickers, so the tribe might be able to catch some breaks that way and use them to their advantage.
Three key points WVU can use to counter the Tribe:
- Overall talent. WVU should be better talent wise in every phase of the game. If the Mountaineers come out focused and determined, this game should be a good tune-up for Oklahoma the following week.
- The running game. In a matchup like this one, WVU should be able to blow the Tribe off the ball in the trenches. If they can’t, I’ll be a bit worried, but the line will need time to mature this season and eventually they should be just fine.
- Defense! William & Mary shouldn’t be able to score against the Mountaineer defense, if they put more than two touchdowns on the board, it may mean the defense hasn’t improved much. Mountaineer fans can only hope the defense is better, if they’re not, we all know what kind of season we could be in for.
So, any chance William & Mary could pull the upset?
I’m not in the business of making game predictions, but an upset seems very unlikely. Even if WVU struggles at the quarterback position, they should still be able to muster enough offense against a team like William & Mary to come out on top. The Tribe went 2-9 last season, but only lost to Maryland by one point, as the final score ended up being 7-6.
Maryland didn’t have the most electric offense last season to say the least, but we know from the result that William & Mary is at least capable of keeping the game close. WVU has won 9 straight home openers by an average of 29 points per-game and the Mountaineers are 15-0-1 all-time against the Tribe.
I can only see one way in which William & Mary has a chance to keep this game close, and that’s to win the turnover battle. Turnovers can turn any game around in a heartbeat, and while they wouldn’t necessarily win the game for the Tribe, forcing turnovers would go a long way in keeping them around.
In the end, William & Mary just won’t have the athletes to match up with the Mountaineers, it’ll eventually take its toll. Expect West Virginia’s offense to find a way to put enough points on the board to get the win. It’s pretty difficult to envision an upset, even if WVU isn’t clicking on all cylinders.
We might not be able to tell how much of an improvement the defense has made during the offseason, due to the caliber of opponent, but that’s the main unit I’ll be focused on.
I’m sure everyone else will be as well.