Welcome back By Godders! If you are reading this, then it means that the 2018 football season is officially, finally upon us! I have been chomping at the bit to write about the season but I couldn’t waste all of my thoughts in the off-season. Now, thankfully, that is over as college football has begun. Let’s give into what I think about this 2018 season.
....The Offseason Content
I genuinely hope you all enjoyed the content we here at the Musket put together for you to get us ready for the 2018 season. We gave you four weeks worth of new content every day in a variety of ways. I know the doldrums of the summer can make the days pass slow but we attempted to give you an in-depth look at every team on the schedule as well as looking at all of the starters and backups. If you read it all, you should now be familiar with the entire team and my work is done. If not, peruse the offseason content and familiarize yourself with the opponents and the team.
....The HYPE TRAIN
If you have been a West Virginia Mountaineers fan for more than one year, you know that offseason expectations often lead to heartbreak. You know full well how 2007 lead us to the highest mountaintop before dropping us off without a parachute.
Most fans I’ve spoken to or interacted with have shared a common theme, “I’ll believe it when I see it”. I get it, you want to protect yourself from believing something only to have it ripped away from you, again. I’m here to tell you, jump on board.
It is a great thing for the state to be getting so much hype so early in the season and I fully believe it is indicative of a great season. The team has a chance to start the season off with a big win over a “national” program, even if their 2018 version likely won’t be that good. Then two weeks later, you get to take down a very good ACC team. Wins over the SEC and ACC to start the season are always good.
Even more so, I truly believe the team has a chance to start out 8-0. The more good that happens, the more good things that can happen. Winning builds confidence. Confidence builds momentum. Momentum lets teams overcome bad breaks and bad blunders. Jump on the hype train.
....The Tennessee Volunteers
Going into the season, I honestly didn’t have much thought about Tennessee. Yes, they were the first game on the schedule and I’m certainly not overlooking them, but in terms of having a disdain for the program, I couldn’t really get mad at the fanbase. That changed over the summer as the Twittersphere took hold and you saw a program that went 0-8 in SEC play, has now lost the most recent game against every SEC opponent, and fielded one of the worst teams in the SEC last year. I don’t expect the Volunteers to be as bad as they were last year, but listening to the fans, you got the impression this team went 11-1 last year and were going to just run the ball at will against Tony Gibson’s defense.
I grew really angry on Saturday when I listened to a podcast (12 minute mark) by a couple of Tennessee beat writers. They discussed how little information was coming out of Knoxville, which contrasted with the information coming from Morgantown about the Mountaineers having “Hoof and Mouth” disease. One of the hosts attempted to correct the person that it was “Hand, Foot, and Mouth” disease to which the reporter retorted “Maybe it’s just Hoof and Mouth Disease in West Virginia”.
Oh, so you’re gonna stoop to that level, are ya? You know what, you did it, you were able to do something that not many people can, you got me to go into full fan mode. You wanna run your mouth like that? Ok, now it’s on. That is enough motivation for me to want Dana Holgorsen to act like the game against Tennessee is in the BCS computer era, which took margin of victory into account. I think Remember the Titans said it best, “Run it up Dana! Leave no doubt”.
...What A Successful Season Really Is
There have been conflicting ideas on what constitutes a successful season. Do we need to make the Big 12 Championship Game? Do we need to win? Make the playoffs? A championship?
I think Oliver Luck did a disservice to both Bill Stewart, Dana Holgorsen and you the fans when he talked about winning championships as he fired Stewart. While I would love to see the Old Gold and Blue hoist the championship, in reality, we don’t recruit anywhere close to the level necessary to compete. That doesn’t mean we can’t make a run, it just means it is going to be that much harder than it is for programs like Alabama, Ohio State and Clemson.
That said, I think a successful season is 9-3 and winning at least six games in the Big 12. That would be only the second time in league play that the team has won six conference games. 6-3 may be enough to make the conference title game but I’m not convinced that the team needs to make the title game for it to be a successful season.
I also think, for it to be a successful season, the Mountaineers need to finish the season ranked. That has been a failing of Holgorsen’s during much of his tenure and this year he is saddled with his best quarterback, best receiving corp in his tenure as at least a defense that is experienced. IF the team can at least finish in the top 15 and win 9 games, that is a successful season.
...My Keys to the Season
- Health: The single most important part of the season is for the starting 22 to be healthy. The second part of that is for the depth behind them to be healthy. West Virginia doesn’t have a lot of experienced depth behind the starters. When players like Mike O’Laughlin and Dillon Spalding go down, it hurts the team. They may not have contributed on the field, but they contribute at practice, they contribute on the scout team. You need talent to increase talent.
- Field Position: Against Virginia Tech last year, the ‘Eers never started closer than their own 27. Against TCU, other than one drive, the ‘Eers started on their own 25 or worse (they started one drive on their own 1). Both of those games ended 31-24 in favor of the bad guys. West Virginia may have of the prolific offenses in college this year but that doesn’t mean they can drive 99 yards every single time. The offense needs to be able to start closer to the endzone than with their backs against the wall. This means the defense needs to be aggressive and get turnovers.
- Avoid turnovers: The Mountaineers have, for the past several years at least, become turnover prone at the worst times. Look back the Oklahoma game a couple of years ago. The defense forces a punt and Gary Jennings fumbles the punt. Even with the game looking grim at 21-0, the offense mounted a comeback before Justin Crawford fumbled at the 7. The following WVU drive Crawford again fumbled, this time at the 3. Maybe it doesn’t make a lick of difference but I sure would like to take my chances holding onto the ball.