The West Virginia Mountaineers only get one non-conference game this season when they host the EKU Colonels. After that game, the Mountaineers will immediately begin conference play in the Big 12 and for their first game, they travel to Stillwater, Oklahoma to take on the Oklahoma State Cowboys.
For Neal Brown and his Mountaineers, this game will let you know quickly how good the team is. The Cowboys are most likely going to be contending for the Big 12 title. Mike Gundy has a team that returns at least 19 of 22 starters from last season.
The only player on defense who isn’t returning from the 2019 squad is cornerback AJ Green. Green, a 3-year starter, earned All Big 12 honors in 2018 and 2019 before going undrafted in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Along the offensive line, left guard Marcus Keyes and center Johnny Wilson are gone but former Mountaineer Josh Sills is expected to replace Keyes on the line. Sills transferred to the Cowboys in December and will be immediately eligible as a graduate assistant. Sills is seeking a Masters in Agriculture.
Literally everyone else...
The Cowboys will return their starting quarterback, Spencer Sanders, who completed 62% of his passes for 2,065 yards and 16 touchdowns. He was second in the Big 12 with nine passes over 50 yards. Spencer also displayed athleticism as a runner, adding over 600 yards on the ground to go with two rushing touchdowns.
Pairing with Sanders will be all-world athlete Chuba Hubbard. Hubbard had over 2,000 yards on the ground last season as he earned Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year and All-American honors. Hubbard accounted for over 50% of the Cowboys offense last season and will look to close our his career with a bang in 2020.
The Cowboys hope that 2018 Biletnikoff finalist Tylan Wallace can return from a late season knee injury. If he can, Wallace will head a receiving corp that also includes Dillon Stoner and Braydon Johnson. Johnson only caught 21 passes last season but he averaged over 20 yards per reception.
On defense, the Cowboys return 10 of 11 starters with only AJ Green not returning. The Cowboys’ defense finished 37th in defensive efficiency last year and will look to be a top 20 unit this season.
Leading tacklers, linebackers Malcolm Rodriguez and Amen Ogbongbemiga return with their combined 203 tackles. Ogbongbemiga was second on the team with 100 tackles last season while he led the Cowboys with 5 sacks. The Cowboys return their top 5 returning tacklers with a combined total of 402 tackles between the five.
Safety Kolby Harvey-Peel returns after intercepting 5 passes last season and forcing 2 fumbles. Peel may be the most dynamic playmaker for the Cowboys as he is always around the ball. He finished 2019 with 71 tackles, 13 passes defended, 5 intercepted, 2 forced fumbles and 2 fumbles recovered.
The team, infused by the addition of new starter Jarrett Doege last year was able to hang with the Cowboys in a 20-13 defeat that the Mountaineers had a lead at halftime and going into the fourth quarter before the Cowboys pulled away. This year, I think the Cowboys win in a higher scoring game.
Cowboys 34 - Mountaineers 28