Spring football is over and we now all begin the countdown to the Big 12 Media Days, Fall Camps, and then, yes, the start of the 2018 college football season. So, with that being said, let’s have some fun and look at the best-case and worst-case scenarios for every team in the Big 12 conference. We will start rolling these out throughout the month of May. Agree? Disagree? Don’t be afraid to let us know in the comments below!
We now take a closer look at the West Virginia Mountaineers. After a 10-win season in 2016, the Mountaineers struggled in 2017, stumbling to a 7-6 record after a gruesome finger injury to star quarterback Will Grier. Dana Holgorsen returns arguably the best QB in the country and maybe his best offense yet in Morgantown. But can the defense hold its own?
West Virginia Football: Best-Case Scenario
The Mountaineers come back with the most explosive offense in the Big 12, and maybe the country, and they live up to the hype. Will Grier has no linger issues with his injured finger, while David Sills V builds on his incredible 2017 season. Combine Sills with Gary Jennings and it turns into the best 1-2 WR duo in the conference, and once again, maybe America. OC Jake Spavital is more comfortable play calling then he was in 2017. Running back Justin Crawford may be gone, but Kennedy McKoy, Martell Pettaway and Alec Sinkfield share the carries and take plenty of the pressure off Grier and the passing game when needed.
Defensively, the Mountaineers stay healthy, and the grad transfers help out in a big way. UCLA transfer Denzel Fisher helps lead a secondary in desperate need of some direction, while the defensive line is beefed up thanks to the transfer of Clemson DL Jabril Robinson, along with USC’s Kenny Bigelow. Plus, stud true freshman DE Dante Stills steps in and makes his presence felt right away.
This fall, the Mountaineers take care of business against a rebuilding Tennessee team, Youngstown State and NC State, which lost a couple of key players to the NFL. Then, it’s Big 12 play where WVU sneaks out another close one against K-State (I feel like these teams always play close games). The Mountaineers roll over Texas Tech, Kansas, plus Iowa State in Ames and then Baylor. That’s an 8-0 start for WVU. The final month of the season is brutal, with road games against Texas and Oklahoma State, with home match ups against TCU and Oklahoma. A 3-1 stretch would put WVU at 11-1 and easily send them to the Big 12 Championship Game in Dallas.
West Virginia Football: Worst-Case Scenario
The Mountaineers head into the 2018 season with lots of hype, but Will Grier doesn’t reach the Heisman-level expectations that many expected. The finger nags him periodically throughout the season, while the offensive line that let him down at times last season, does more of the same this fall. As a result, the running game desperately misses workhorse Justin Crawford, and the combination of McKoy and Pettaway doesn’t replace the production, while Sinkfield’s big spring doesn’t translate to the fall. On the outside, David Sills V 18 touchdown catches are cut in half, as defenses start focusing more closely on him, while Gary Jennings continues to be productive, but doesn’t reach the 1,000-yard mark that he did last season.
Defensively, this team is a mess. After allowing over 200 rushing yards per game last season, which was dead last in the Big 12, the Mountaineers don’t fare much better. They brought in some solid transfer players, but an injury here and there, and the team does not have the depth to handle it. The lack of quality recruiting at the high school level on the defensive side of the ball become more evident than ever, as Tony Gibson’s impressive 2016 season feels like a lifetime ago.
The Mountaineers have a tough-ish non-conference, with an SEC and ACC opponent and end up splitting those games, going 2-1 against Tennessee, Youngstown State and N.C. State. Then, it’s a close loss to Kansas State, putting West Virginia at 2-2. A couple of wins over Texas Tech and Kansas are followed up with a road loss to Iowa State. The Mountaineers pick up a win over Baylor and are 4-4 before a brutal stretch to close the season. West Virginia plays road games against Texas and Oklahoma State, with home match ups against TCU and Oklahoma. WVU goes 1-3 in those four games, finishing a very disappointing 5-7 season.