Big 12 Football: Without Defense, The West Virginia Mountaineers Will Remain Mediocre

By Zach Pugh
Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE

The West Virginia Mountaineers offense was unstoppable and playing at a top-notch level early in the season. No one could figure out how to stop the machine led by quarterback Geno Smith and his Heisman chances seemed like a lock. The questions did quickly arise with Smith’s passing numbers, but many had a tendency to overlook the absolutely poor defensive play because, hey, they had an offense that teams had to keep up with first. It was a bit crazy to even consider questioning whether the Mountaineers were a legit contender, even though the opposing defenses they were facing were some of the worst in the nation.

Fans in Morgantown could place the concern of the team allowing the Baylor Bears to put up 63 points to the side because in the end the victory was West Virginia’s. After about the third or fourth game, reality began to set in and it became an inevitable truth WVU couldn’t just outscore every team in the conference. That is way too much pressure to put on an offense, but it wasn’t just the added pressure. When the identity of the top teams in the conference started becoming more clear,  so did the fact a Big 12 title can only be obtained by a team that plays defense.

The Mountaineers’ total defense still ranks 114th nationally and they haven’t won in three tries after jumping out to a 5-0 record. This team was in the national title conversation, but now they are struggling just to get bowl eligible. Defensive Coordinator Joe DeForest came into the season facing a challenge and even though a lot of people were high on West Virginia, there were questions about how a defense that lacks speed would do in the Big 12, just no one thought it would be this bad.

Every Big 12 team WVU has faced has scored at least 39 points. Their defensive stats are an absolute eyesore, ranking 116th in scoring defense and 120th in passing defense is not a recipe for success in a conference with a talented pool of quarterbacks. The Big 12 has been labeled as an all offense all the time conference, but there are currently five teams in the conference allowing less than 400 yards per game, the Oklahoma Sooners and Kansas State Wildcats also allow less than 20 points a game.

At the top of the conference sits K-State, who manhandled the Mountaineers, and they’ve put themselves in position for a BCS Championship with offense and a defense that creates turnovers and produces points of those turnovers. In fact, the Wildcats have scored 111 points off turnovers and haven’t allowed opposing teams to score any points after a K-State turnover. When you consider the Big 12 has five teams ranked in the top 25 most productive FBS offenses, that’s impressive.

West Virginia won’t be competing for a conference championship this season, but next season is a brand new slate and they will need defense to compete in the Big 12. They will have to get on par with the TCU Horned Frogs, Oklahoma and Kansas State. They don’t have to be the best defense in the nation, however, they just need to get some speed to at least keep up with the passing attacks in the conference.


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