The West Virginia Mountaineers caught a lot of people by surprise in 2016, racing to the forefront of the Big 12 standings and making a big push at a Big 12 title which almost everyone thought would stay in the state of Oklahoma, either with the OU Sooners or with the Oklahoma State Cowboys. While it is true that OU and OSU did play for the Big 12 title, West Virginia had a chance to win the league. The Mountaineers took a big step forward and gave coach Dana Holgorsen a new measure of job security. Now, the Mountaineers will see if they can do it all again.
How Did They End 2016
The Mountaineers were crafty, clever and resourceful in the process of maintaining an unbeaten record through the first half of their season, and as they got to late November, they hosted Oklahoma with a chance to take full control of the Big 12 title race. A win over OU meant that WVU simply would have needed to beat Iowa State on the road (which it did) and then beat Baylor at home in early December (which it did) to win the Big 12.
However, the Mountaineers played their worst defensive game of the season by far. They committed huge turnovers and basically stumbled throughout a disastrous first half. They tried to mount rallies in the second half, but the defense could never get settled. West Virginia absorbed a 56-28 loss on its home field in a snowstorm. The Mountaineers overachieved in going 10-2 in the regular season, but the loss to Oklahoma and then a decisive loss to Miami in the Russell Athletic Bowl reminded the Mountaineers how much work they still needed to do to get to the next level in college football.
Will Grier is the new quarterback. The transfer from Florida is seeking a fresh start after he self-sabotaged his Gator career by taking a banned substance (and not alerting Florida medical staff about the matter, his true mistake). Grier had Florida poised to contend for a New Year’s Six bowl berth before his suspension, which was the product of his violation. He could make West Virginia a legitimate national contender.
The offensive line has to give Grier enough time to survey the field and make good decisions. The West Virginia defense should continue to produce a number of significant moments under coordinator Tony Gibson, who did an outstanding job last season. The offensive line is the question mark on this team – it can knit together the strengths and reduce the number of weaknesses on the roster if it plays at or above expectations.
What To Expect From The Mountaineers This Year
The offensive line is probably not good enough to lead the Mountaineers to the very top of the Big 12, but people are underestimating (or forgetting, or both) the impact Will Grier had on Florida when he played for the Gators. He is good, and he will make the Mountaineers better than many think. Holgersen with a capable quarterback is a recipe for success.
Record Last 5 Seasons
Schedule & Outlook
The Mountaineers start the season with a big showdown against rival, Virginia Tech. If they can win that game, they should have a clear path to 4-0 with East Carolina, Delaware State and Kansas right after. The Mountaineers will have to prove they can travel well if they’re to get over their regular season win total. They have to go to West Virginia, TCU and Oklahoma. However, they’ll get to host Oklahoma State and Texas.
West Virginia probably won’t get to 10 wins, but the idea that this team will win only seven games seems absurd. Grier is too good to allow that to happen. Eight or nine wins should be the landing point for this team in 2017. That means you should see them at least get a push here and very likely get the over. This is one of the better bets on the board. You should only need four wins after September to at least get a push.
Regular Season Win Total Prediction: Over 7
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