Monday, August 18, 2008

Prelude to a Season... #8

#8.) West Virginia

What You Need to Know: The season of change begins in Morgantown, but while changes occur in nearly every facet of the WVU program, there is reason to be optimistic about what remains the same. Gone is head coach Rich Rodriguez, starting tailback Steve Slaton, FB Owen Schmitt, WR Darius Reynaud, 7 defensive starters, prize recruit Terrelle Pryor, and every coach from the staff save for defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel and defensive line coach Bill Kirelawich.

Despite the losses there is reason to be optimistic at WVU. New head man Bill Stewart returns a Big East Offensive Player of the Year in QB Pat White, and White is unrivaled in his understanding and success within the spread offense. Also returning is RB Noel Devine, a viable replacement for Steve Slaton, with blazing speed and game experience. Opening holes for Devine and protecting White is a veteran offensive line, returning 8 players with starting experience.

Stewart seems to have reigned in the character issues, booting two players in the offseason who couldn't get with the new program. Where the most personnel was lost, the defense, there are key returners both in the field and in the coaching ranks. It's not the same as last year, for sure, and the Mountaineers will have tough sledding with a schedule that is dangerous, a team and staff that are still trying to gel, and a fanbase with raised expectations, but the sky isn't falling in Morgantown nearly as quickly as everyone presumed it would.

Adding to WVU's potential success is the fact there is no clear-cut dominant team in the Big East. The Mountaineers are smack in the middle of a conference with no extremely dominant offense, which means their defense will not have to perform miracles week-in and week-out to win conference games. They are the front-runner in the Big East to be sure.

Who You Need to Know and Their 07 Stats:
QB Pat White: 1724 pass yds, 1335 rush yds, 28 total TD
RB Noel Devine: 627 yds, 6 TD
LB Mortty Ivy: 6 sacks 11 TFL

Game To Watch: Out of conference games at Colorado and East Carolina will be challenging. Their biggest out of conference game will be at home versus Auburn on October 23 and will be an opportunity for WVU to announce just what sort of team they are. In conference games against Rutgers and South Florida are both at home. Their most important game, and the one they must win to have any hope of winning the conference is November 28 at Pitt.

They'll Do Well If...: Pat White must stay healthy. The defense must step up in important games and take advantage of the lack of a non-dominating Big East offense.

Season Outlook: There is no reason to believe the Mountaineers will not be in contention for the Big East. The conference title is theirs to lose. A loss at Pitt means there is no wiggle room in conference play and a sweep against Rutgers and South Florida is needed, achievable for sure. The defense stands to get shredded against Auburn, but every other game is manageable for the defense. Expect a hiccup somewhere along the way in conference play, but at the end of the season, WVU will be standing with a 10-2 record, a Big East title, and another BCS bowl berth.

1 comment:

Pessimistic Pete said...

Great post! Thanks for the love!