There’s no doubt about it, the 2011 West Virginia squad could score some points. The Mountaineers averaged 37 points a game which ranked 13th in the nation, but they also passed for 346 yards per game, which was good for sixth in the country.
However, upon closer examination, there are some glaring weaknesses that must be fixed in short order for WVU to win the Big 12 in their first year in the conference.
Most people when picking WVU are thinking about their last game, and rightfully so. The Mountaineers demolished a good Clemson team to the tune of 70-33 in the Orange Bowl. Let us look at the last three games that led up to the bowl win: a 24-21 win at Cincinnati, followed by a one-point win at home vs Pitt and a three-point win vs South Florida. I wonder how sexy of a pick they would be had they lost any of those games. Further inspection shows a 26 point loss to Syracuse (without Carmelo and Billy Owens) and a three point loss at home to Louisville sans Pervis Ellison. All joking aside, the 2011 season was very up and down for WVU.
WVU finished 55th in the nation against the run, 35th against the pass, 61st in scoring defense and 33rd in total defense all while playing in the Big East conference. Baylor (2), Oklahoma State (3), Oklahoma (5), Texas Tech (13) and TCU(28) all finished in the top 30 in the nation on offense while all producing more than 440 yards a game. The WVU defense will see a dramatic step up in class in the caliber and sophistication of offense they face week in and week out.
The 2012 Mountaineers will play at Texas, at Texas Tech, vs Kansas State,vs TCU, at Oklahoma State and vs Oklahoma in a 6 game stretch in the middle of the season. No doubt, WVU has the offense to out score any team they play in 2012, but will they have the defense and the depth to make it through the grind of the Big 12 schedule?
WVU has a new defensive coordinator in Joe DeForest from Oklahoma State and is switching up from the 3-3-5 defense that WVU has run for years. DeForest brings a whole new staff employing a hybrid 3-4 scheme. The 2012 Mountaineers will have to replace a DE tandem that accounted for 97 tackles and 14.5 sacks, half of the entire team’s totals in 2011. They also must replace their top tackle leader from last year in Najee Goode.
WVU will be a very good team in 2012, but good enough to win the conference in their first year is going to be a tall order.