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West Virginia’s Path to the Big 12 Championship and Playoffs

Just how does West Virginia make this the best SZN ever?

NCAA Football: Big 12 Championship-Texas Christian vs Oklahoma Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

So you wanna be a baller, shot-caller? You wanna ride high in that limousine? Then you have to handle your business, as they say. You have to put the work in and then execute when the time comes. For the West Virginia Mountaineers, this 2018 season has the chance to be one of the magical seasons in program history but in order to do so, they will need to do certain things.

1. Stay Healthy

More than anything else on this list, the health of the team is going to be paramount to how well the team does. Bill Connelly has stated “WVU is going to start with a pretty awesome starting 22. There is star power at QB (Grier), WR (Jennings, Sills), OL (Cajuste), LB (Long), and safety (Askew-Henry, Robinson), and another batch of exciting transfers is arriving, too.

You don’t usually keep your intended 22 on the field the entire year, though, and where the injury bug bites will determine much of WVU’s success. Depth issues are impossible to describe with certainty because we simply don’t know how much it will cost a team.”

Fans saw last year that when Grier went down, the house of cards completely fell apart.

2. Catch a Break

The Mountaineers have been the king’s of wrong breaks at the wrong time, or more importantly not capitalizing on those breaks. Think back to last year when they opened up against Oklahoma State by causing back to back fumbles and knocking Justice Hill out of the game. How do you put the Cowboys down 14 and start imposing your will?

Or think about the Virginia Tech Hokies starting a freshman quarterback in his first game of the season against the 3-3-5. That is a game you should have confused and befuddled a young QB, not letting him run wild. It took two blown coverages to allow the Hokies to take a lead and forced us to play from behind.

If you want to make a serious run, you need breaks and you have to capitalize on those breaks. Don’t put yourself down where you need a score, fumble, score and onside kick recovery just to put yourself back in the game.

3. Get lucky in non-conference

I don’t mean just win but you need the N.C. State Wolfpack and Tennessee Volunteers to be good. You need Tennessee to be at least bowl eligible, maybe even 7—5. N.C. State needs to contend for a divisional title. Doing so, and winning (the important part of this context), puts the Mountaineers in a great position at the end of the year.

Oklahoma was the #2 seed last year in part because they beat THE Ohio State Buckeyes on the road. That road win puts a mark on your resume that not everyone has. It is a big gold star in the world of the playoffs, but that gold star only shines if the team you beat is worthwhile. While Alabama won’t get any gold stars because it doesn’t play a true non-conference road game, it’s Alabama. The Mountaineers needs NCSU to be darn good and the Volunteers to be serviceable. That would go a long way in boosting the Mountaineers resume.

4. Be at least .500 in November

I could talk at length about how dangerous the Mountaineers November schedule is. Two road games to Austin and Stillwater. Hosting TCU Horned Frogs and Oklahoma. It is a gauntlet comparable to the 2015 October Death March. There is a good chance at least three of those teams are ranked when we play them.

For the Mountaineers, if they want to make the Big 12 title game, they can’t lose more than 2 conference games. Since joining the Big 12, the second-place finisher has no more than 2 losses and twice only had one loss. If the Mountaineers want to make a serious run at a conference championship game appearance, they have to finish the conference slate at 7-2 or better. The schedule sets up well for the Mountaineers to be 8-0 entering November but coming out of those four games, the Mountaineers must be 2-2.