As the college football season rapidly approaches, teams are making their final adjustments for opening weekend. For the West Virginia Mountaineers, they face a daunting kickoff to their season as they square off with the Alabama Crimson Tide. The Mountaineers figured to be heavy underdogs to begin with but their chances of pulling the upset took a major hit with the news that senior cornerback Ishmael Banks would miss the game as part of a three-game suspension.
Banks was the secondary’s leader this fall as the only returning defensive back with multiple interceptions in 2013. As a junior, he started all 12 games and recorded 32 tackles and two interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown. He figured to be a defensive leader this season starting opposite sophomore Daryl Worley in a defense that desperately needed to see improvement against the pass in 2014.
The loss could be particularly damaging in the season opener against Alabama. While the Tide are going through a transition at quarterback and have a reputation as a run-first offense, they do have one of the best playmakers in the country at wide receiver in Amari Cooper. The game-breaking pass-catcher has the ability to break open a game at any time, as he showed last season with a 16.4 yards per reception average highlighted by a 99-yard touchdown catch and run in the Iron Bowl last season.
Without Banks in the mix, containing Cooper falls squarely on the young shoulders of Worley. While the young corner has shown the ability to be an excellent cover-man, he’s still a bit raw to be thrown into the deep-end against a talent like Cooper. When the game is on the line, look for Banks’ absence in the secondary to come back to hurt West Virginia in the opener.