Big 12 Football Countdown: No. 9 West Virginia

US PRESSWIRE

Big 12 Football Countdown: No. 9 West Virginia

West Virginia came into the Big 12 with the confidence that they could win the Big 12 in their first year. The Mountaineers had Heisman hopeful QB Geno Smith in command of an offense that blew Clemson away in the Orange Bowl and plenty of skilled players to boot. West Virginia was on track to that goal after a 5-0 start. Then the wheels fell off. West Virginia lost six of their last eight games and were outscored by a combined total of 286-163 in each of those losses. The high flying brigade that was once the passing game will now be grounded as West Virginia losses close to 83% of yards receiving, plus the guy throwing all those passes. An unfavorable schedule that features six road games and only four Big 12 home games will not give the Mountaineers too many opportunities to succeed. In year two the focus switches from chasing the Big 12 title to hoping that growing pains won't get in the way of the Mountaineers staying above (or achieving) .500.

2012 Record: 7-6 (4-5)

Returning Starters: 11 (4 OFF, 7 DEF, 0 ST)

Key Losses on Offense: QB Geno Smith (4205 yds. 42 TD), WR Tavon Austin (1289 yds. 12 TD), WR Stedman Bailey (1622 yds. 25 TD), OG Jeff Braun, C Joe Madsen

Key Losses on Defense: LB Terence Garvin, LB Josh Francis

Head Coach: Dana Holgorsen: 17-9 (3rd Year)

Strength: Secondary & Defensive Line

Since West Virginia has nothing on the offensive end to brag about, the defense could actually get more recognition this season. The defense was atrocious as a whole unit, allowing 38 points a game, but was especially rancid in passing defense, allowing 313 passing yards a game. The Secondary should see improvement as three starters return including safeties Karl Joseph (104 TOT) and Darwin Cook (75 TOT). The defensive line should also see improvement as both defensive tackles Will Clarke (26 TOT) Shaq Rowell (42 TOT) return. The defense overall should benefit after an off season with 2nd year DC Keith Patterson.

Weakness/Questions: Offense

The Mountaineers offense will be almost unrecognizable as only four offensive starters return, and two of them are on the offensive line. Since the passing game is almost completely depleted of anything proven, the focus on offense will turn to the ground game as running backs Andrew Buie (851 yds. 7 TD) and Dustin Garrison (207 yds. 2 TD) are the top returning offensive leaders on the whole team. A starting QB has yet to be established, but many believe that Florida State transfer QB Clint Trickett (272 yds.) has a great chance at snagging the job at day one. Whoever the QB will be has the unfortunate assignment of finding a decent receiver as WR Connor Arlia (43 yds.) and WR Jordan Thompson (85 yds. ) are the top returning targets. It is questionable wether top returning WR Ivan McCartney (112 yds.) will play or not, though at the time we will have to assume not since he has yet to show up on a depth chart

Projected Record: 4-8 (1-8)

Bowl Game: None

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