Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of articles previewing the 2013 college football season and all of the teams in the Big 12.
West Virginia Mountaineers
(2012 record: 7-6, 4-5 in the Big 12)
West Virginia entered the 2012 football season, its first in the Big 12, with the momentum of having won the Big East championship the year before in the Mountaineers 15th and final season as a member of the Big East. And things started out marvelously in the Mountaineers’ inaugural season in the Big 12, starting out with five straight wins and averaging 52 points per game in the process.
There you have it, the highlight of West Virginia’s 2012 season. After five games, everything turned south for the Mountaineers. A win at Texas was followed by five consecutive losses. They then regrouped for a couple of games, winning the final two regular-season contests against Iowa State and lowly Kansas, before being blown out by Syracuse by 24 points in the Pinstripe Bowl. The Mountaineers ended what was supposed to be a much better season just barely above .500 at 7-6, but just 4-5 in their new conference.
And the 2013 season for coach Dana Holgorsen’s troops doesn’t project to be much better, especially losing three of the best players in college football in quarterback Geno Smith, and receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. All three were drafted in the first three rounds of this year’s NFL Draft (Smith and Austin in the opening round).
“Probably the biggest difference going into this year as opposed to last year is everything that we dealt with last year is pretty much the opposite going into this year,” said Holgorsen in his press conference on Tuesday during Big 12 Media Days. “(We) had a lot of good things coming off a big bowl game (a 70-33 win over No. 14 Clemson in 2011) and had some star power on offense and all the experience on defense. It’s the exact opposite going into this year.”
West Virginia returns only four starters from the country’s 10th-best offensive attack last season. One of the offensive replacements will be at quarterback, where there is expected to be a two-way challenge between junior Paul Millard or redshirt freshman Ford Childress, son of former NFL star Ray Childress. Both come from passing backgrounds but neither is going to win many foot races.
The Mountaineers appear to be strongest at running back, where they have returning starter Andrew Buie back anf also are very high on junior-college transfer Dreamius Smith, who could be their best running back this season. Also new to the program is University of Houston transfer Chalres Sims. Sims already received his degree at Houston, but has a year of eligibility remaining, The Big 12 media named Sims the Preseason Big 12 Newcomer of the Year.
Seven starters return on defense. The bad news, however, is that it is from a defense that was among the worst in the country a year ago.
This is going to be a difficult year for Holgorsen and the Mountaineers. More than a couple of wins in the Big 12 will be a real stretch/
Projected 2013 finish: 8th, 4-8 overall, 2-7 in the Big 12.
Next Monday: Iowa State Cyclones