With the departure of quarterback Geno Smith and receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, West Virginia is expected to be picked near the bottom of the Big 12 in 2013.
As expected under coach Dana Holgorsen, the Mountaineers should find a way to be solid on offense. However, the team doesn’t have much clarity in its quarterback race, and the defense was one of the worst in the nation last year.
The non-conference schedule is favorable for West Virginia, but there’s not a lot of guaranteed victories once Big 12 play arrives.
The 2013 college football season is still over 100 days away, but it’s never too early to start talking predictions and expectations for each team going into 2013.
Athlon Sports’ official college football top 25 countdown for 2013 will begin in early May. With the top 25 and predictions in mind, Athlon’s editors will be debating some of the hottest topics from the preseason throughout April and May.
Will West Virginia Make a Bowl Game in 2013?
David Fox (@DavidFox615)
Missing a bowl game is a legitimate concern for West Virginia after going 7-6 with Geno Smith and Tavon Austin. The Mountaineers may flirt with a losing record, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. Despite inexperience at quarterback and wide receiver, Dana Holgorsen will find some way to score points, probably centered around his running backs Andrew Buie and Dustin Garrison. Both are capable of big games, but neither has proven it consistently or against top defenses. The biggest advantage for West Virginia is a lackluster Big 12, especially at quarterback. No Big 12 team is a clear pick for the top-15 at this point. And the West Virginia pass defense, abysmal a year ago, won’t face many top-flight quarterbacks, as indicated by our Big 12 quarterback rankings earlier this week. West Virginia is not in great shape right now, but there’s enough to work with to help the Mountaineers to bowl.
Tony Dobies, Staff Writer, BlueGoldNews.com, (@DOBIEST)
Two years ago, I would’ve laughed if you asked me whether West Virginia would make a bowl or not. “Of course they will,” I’d say. But, that’s just the way things have gone for this program over the past seven months.
West Virginia has quickly gone from a top-5 team to one that might not even challenge for a bowl. Without stars like Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, it’s going to be a new era in Morgantown.
Head coach Dana Holgorsen, now in his third year, has by far his hardest job yet. He’s forced to rebuild his high-powered attack and has to try to fix the gaping holes from last year’s defense. After a few offseason changes, the Mountaineers are headed into 2013 with hope.
The team seems to have bought into the T.E.A.M. acronym Holgorsen and his staff developed. It spent time learning about the history and tradition of the program earlier this year and that seemed to build camaraderie, something the players said was missed at times a year ago.
West Virginia will have a quarterback few have heard of (likely Ford Childress or Paul Millard) and a group of young receivers with potential but little experience. The offense will most likely rely on the running game, which doesn’t really fit what Holgorsen has done in the past.
The defense will be better. It can’t be worse. It seems the players have bought into a new, simpler system. The talent seems to be there, specifically at safety, to see some progress. Special teams could get a boost, too, from some youth at kicker.
The Big 12 Conference is expected to be down compared to a year ago. Seven of the top 10 quarterbacks in a pass-heavy league including four 4,000-yard passers are gone.
In addition, the Mountaineers could be a bit more comfortable with the Big 12 after the experience of a year ago.
For that reason, West Virginia should challenge for bowl eligibility. It will win no more than seven games and likely no less than five. I’ll say WVU finishes 6-6 and heads to another mediocre bowl.
In what should be considered a rebuilding year, six wins would be a decent season.
Steven Lassan (@AthlonSteven)
Considering West Virginia won seven games last season and must replace its top three players from that team – quarterback Geno Smith and receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey – getting to a bowl game will be quite a challenge in 2013.
Despite the personnel losses and defensive question marks, I think West Virginia will find a way to get to six victories. It’s not going to be easy, but the Mountaineers have a path to a bowl game. Winning the three non-conference games is a must, and West Virginia has to beat Kansas and Iowa State in Big 12 play. If the Mountaineers win those five games, they should be able to steal a victory against Texas Tech or Oklahoma State in Morgantown to get bowl eligible.
While the quarterback position is getting most of the spring buzz, the bigger question mark for West Virginia is a defense that was one of the worst in the nation last year. With seven starters back, the Mountaineers should be able to show some improvement on this side of the ball. However, there are a lot of new players stepping into key roles on offense, which makes West Virginia arguably the biggest wildcard in the Big 12 in 2013.
Even though the Mountaineers are a team in transition, I think they will find a way to get to six wins and play in a bowl game for the 12th consecutive season.
Mark Ross (@AthlonSports)
After starting out last season 5-0, West Virginia proceeded to lose five in a row and had to scramble with wins in its last two games to secure a bowl bid. The Mountaineers' trip to the Pinstripe Bowl to face Syracuse didn't go as planned, as the Orange dominated their former Big East foes 38-14. That put a disappointing ending to a season that held so much promise in early October. Unfortunately, I think the sledding in 2013 will be even tougher as Dana Holgorsen will have to try and reverse the trend of last season's 2-6 finish without record-setting quarterback Geno Smith and basically all of his wide receiver production from '12. The only reason the Mountaineers finished above .500 last season was because of their prolific offense, which is now pretty much starting over from scratch. Even with seven starters returning on defense, I think this team will be hard-pressed to manufacture six wins this fall, because I am pretty certain these Mountaineers won't be able to generate 500 yards and 40 points a game. Remember that's what last year's team produced and it managed just seven wins.
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