West Virginia’s Big 12 debut was a roller-coaster ride in 2012.
The Mountaineers started 5-0 and appeared to be the favorite to win the Big 12 after a 48-45 victory at Texas on Oct. 6. However, the season went downhill from there.
West Virginia dropped its next five games to fall to 5-5, before defeating Kansas and Iowa State to finish 7-5. The Mountaineers capped off their Big 12 debut with a 38-14 loss at the hands of Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl.
With quarterback Geno Smith and receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey departing, West Virginia is starting over on offense. Transfers Clint Trickett (quarterback) and Charles Sims (running back) should help to bolster the offense, but the defense still has question marks. After ranking 114th nationally in points allowed, the Mountaineers need major improvement from this unit to get bowl eligible in 2013.
What will West Virginia's record at the end of the 2013 regular season? Athlon’s panel of experts debates:
West Virginia's 2013 Game-by-Game Predictions
8/31 William & Mary
9/7 at Oklahoma
9/14 Georgia State
9/21 Maryland (Baltimore)
9/28 Oklahoma State
10/5 at Baylor
10/19 Texas Tech
10/26 at K-State
11/2 at TCU
11/16 at Kansas
11/29 Iowa State
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Considering West Virginia went 7-6 last year and loses its three best players, getting to a bowl game in 2013 will be a tough assignment. There are only two guaranteed wins on the Mountaineers’ schedule – Georgia State and William & Mary – and a handful of swing games, which include a neutral site matchup against Maryland and a home game against Iowa State on Nov. 29. West Virginia will also face an improved Kansas team on Nov. 16 and has four road games in Big 12 play against TCU, Baylor, Kansas State and Oklahoma. I think the Mountaineers will get better as the season progresses, and the addition of Houston transfer Charles Sims adds another playmaker to the offense. For West Virginia to go bowling, it needs to pickup at least three wins in Big 12 play and beat Maryland on Sept. 21. It’s not going to be easy, but I think the Mountaineers find a way to get to 6-6.
Related: College Football's Top 25 Impact Transfers for 2013
Braden Gall (@BradenGall)
This team got some good news this offseason in the form of transfers Charles Sims and Clint Trickett. Sims will be a difference maker in the dynamic mold of Tavon Austin and should fit the Mountaineers offensive scheme perfectly. In fact, even with a new quarterback, this offense should be just fine. It is the defense that should be concerning after allowing nearly 40 points per game a year ago. There are plenty of experienced sophomores, so that should help West Virginia in Year No. 2 of Big 12 play. However, the road slate is daunting as the Mountaineers may only win one or two games away from Morgantown all season. An upset of Texas or Oklahoma State at home could dramatically change the narrative of this fall for WVU.
Chris Williams, (@ChrisMWilliams), CycloneFanatic.com
West Virginia went 4-5 in its debut year in the Big 12 with Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Steadman Bailey powering the nation’s 9th-best scoring offense.
The above trio is long gone along with three linemen and two other wide receivers out of the mix offensively as well.
Sure, the Big 12 has been and always will be an offense-first league. But as West Virginia and Baylor both proved last year, when your defense is as soft as a piece of wet tissue paper, you can only win so many football games.
West Virginia’s defense gave up 43.3 points per game in Big 12 play last season and while that number should improve this year under new coordinator Keith Patterson, the thought of that number dropping enough to compensate for the substantial losses on offense is hard to imagine, even with a more favorable travel schedule at hand.
I see a Sept. 21 road trip to Maryland as a major swing game for West Virginia. The Mountaineers proved last season that while they have Big 12 talent, they do not have Big 12 depth so stockpiling wins and going 3-0 in a non-conference with additional puff games against Williams & Mary and Georgia State is critical.
Big 12 games vs. Texas Tech, at Kansas and Iowa State are all toss-ups and important ones if this program wants to bowling in 2013. However, I just don’t see that happening.
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
West Virginia is full of questions on both sides of the ball, so it’s going to be tough for the Mountaineers to build any sort of consistency. The schedule doesn’t do any favors, either. The Mountaineers’ season derailed not just because of a lackluster defense and an offense that had its cold snaps. I have to believe that those back-to-back trips to Austin and Lubbock to start October and then a double-overtime game to start November took its toll. West Virginia may find answers on offense, especially with Houston transfer Charles Sims, but it’s still tough to see the Mountaineers stealing wins on the road against Oklahoma, Baylor or TCU or beating Oklahoma State or Texas in Morgantown. The swing games are going to have to be against Texas Tech, Iowa State, Kansas State and Maryland.
West Virginia finished in the top 10 in the nation in scoring, passing and total offense last season yet went 7-6. To make matters worse, basically all of that offensive firepower is now in the NFL, which means the Dana Holgorsen and his staff is pretty much starting over from scratch. The reasonable goal for the Mountaineers this season is bowl eligibility, and this likely will come down to three games: a border battle with Maryland in Baltimore and Big 12 contests with Texas Tech and Iowa State. Barring an upset elsewhere, the Mountaineers need to go 3-0 in these games to go bowling, and I believe they will come up just short.
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