It has been a long offseason since that bowl loss to Miami. We’ve had some highs, like the basketball team beating #1 Baylor in Morgantown, the baseball team finally getting ranked and earning a NCAA postseason bid. We’ve had some lows [I refuse to mention them because this is a positive space and we don’t dwell on negativity].
Now that the spring has given way to summer vacations and school has started or is ready to start across the land, we can feel it. The change in seasons when Mountaineer Football is in the air. I’ve missed it. I know you’ve missed it. So let’s dive right in like The Rock in Baywatch and get back into the swing of things.
I Think I am concerned about the defensive line
When it comes to defense, the defensive line is the single most important piece. You can have a great secondary and a great linebacking corp but if your defensive line is weak, then you will not succeed. West Virginia is going to start two sophomores at defensive end and a redshirt senior with major experience at nose tackle. It is absolutely a cause for concern.
We can laud Reese Donahue, WV’s first O-Lineman and DPOY, and Adam Shuler all we want but the fact is they haven’t played much. They are unknown. They are being asked to replace seniors who started 20-30 games. There is going to be a drop-off in production and an adjustment period.
Pegues, as talented as he appears, is coming off an injury. If he is unable to nail down the position, Jalen Harvey may be able to step up but once again, he is unproven.
I Think the offensive line will be fine
As concerned as I am about the D-line, the O-line does not worry me. We have two very capable offensive tackles in Yodny Cajuste and Colton McKivitz. Kyle Bosch is a stud. There may be a slight difference in Matt Jones and Tyler Orlosky but I fully believe Jones will handle himself.
The line is going to need to be fine because their ability to handle defensive pressure and open holes for the talented running backs will be key to this offense. If the line is able to produce the way it has the past two years, when West Virginia was one of the better running teams in the Big 12, then WVU fans can get excited.
I Think it feels good to hate a team on the schedule
Let’s be frank here. I hate Virginia Tech. I didn’t grow up a WVU fan so my fandom started when I went to school at West Virginia. At that time, I didn’t know the rivalries. In 2002-2005, Virginia Tech was the team I wanted to beat the most.
Towards the turn of the 21st century, Miami fielded possibly the greatest college team ever assembled. I didn’t hold much hope in beating Miami, though Quincy Wilson nearly did just that. Pitt, despite being the Backyard Brawl, felt like we were ascending and they were stuck in mediocrity. Virginia Tech felt like our big rival.
For the most part, the two schools are similar. They both played tough nosed football. They both wanted to beat you up. For me, if West Virginia was able to beat Virginia Tech, it was a good year. If not, well the season felt a bit sour.
Then Tech bolted for the ACC. They left with Miami and Boston College and WVU fans were left to wonder about the state of their program. Tech experienced success in the ACC, thanks to playing a ridiculously easy schedule. No matter what, because of the national opinion of the Big East, West Virginia was fighting an uphill climb every season.
It has been 12 years since these two schools met on the football field. I know WVU played Maryland the last few years and it was nice to have a “rival” on the schedule but it feels different now. I haven’t been this amped up for a game in a long time.
I Think the Mountaineers will surprise many people
I understand why pundits would put the Mountaineers at 5th/6th in the conference rankings. Will Grier, for all of his accolades, hasn’t played football in almost two years. The defense is once again replacing more starters than it returns. The offensive line is replacing All Big-12 performers. On the surface, West Virginia is one of the least experienced teams entering 2017.
I still think the schedule sets up well for the Mountaineers. Virginia Tech will be a war. If the Mountaineers are able to win that game, they should start 4-0. Then they have to travel to Fort Worth to take on TCU who returns nearly everyone. If they are able to win that game, they will be 7-0 when Oklahoma State comes to town.
If you look at last year’s game against OSU, we lost by 17. The Mountaineers turned the ball over three times that resulted in 17 points. For me, OSU and WVU are as evenly matched as they come. OSU won by 17 but they weren’t 17 points better. Get by OSU, a big if mind you, and this becomes a special season.
I Think the last three games will determine how special this season is
Of the five ranked teams on West Virginia’s schedule, three are at the end. One of those three are likely to be in the conference championship game at the end of the year. If West Virginia wants to win a Big 12 Title, it is going to have to beat these three teams.
Kansas State is going to be dangerous. Jesse Ertz, Bill Snyder and Manhattan are no pushovers.
Texas, with new head coach Tom Herman, could finally get those players to actually play at their potential. If he does, Texas will actually be back. [Sorry, that call is going to haunt Texas forever]
Oklahoma, the only team WVU has not beaten as a member of the Big 12. So far, the Big 12 title has run through Norman and the Mountaineers are being asked to go to Norman in late November.