It wasn’t that long ago that the West Virginia Mountaineers were one of those teams that routinely pulled huge upsets. You really only have to go back to 2011 for that sort of thing, when the Mountaineers annihilated the Clemson Tigers 70-33 in the Orange Bowl. Even more infamous was the 2007 West Virginia football team’s domination of the Oklahoma Sooners in the Fiesta Bowl.
But those days seem to be a part of the distant past now. With the Alabama Crimson Tide lining up opposite the Mountaineers on Saturday, there will be no upset.
West Virginia has a chance to turn things around in 2014, after they struggled to a 4-8 record last year following the departures of Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. But they won’t be able to hang around with the Crimson Tide. When the Mountaineers have pulled major upsets in the past, they did it with an innovate offense that took teams by surprise.
And while the Mountaineers expect to have a potent offense in Dana Holgorsen’s system, Holgorsen has shown very little ability to out-coach anyone since they have joined the Big 12. His system is no longer innovative. In the Big 12, the air-raid offense is commonplace, and spread offenses with different variations are now the norm throughout college football.
And Alabama certainly won’t be surprised by West Virginia’s offense the way Clemson was once upon a time. Alabama has played teams with similar offenses, particularly since the Texas A&M Aggies landed in their division. The Sooners also got the better of Alabama using a similar offense in the Sugar Bowl last year.
But the Mountaineers do not have the kind of talent that the Sooners did, and Nick Saban has had the entire offseason to fume about that loss. The Crimson Tide will be ready for any scheme West Virginia throws at them, and the Mountaineers don’t have the talent to beat them without the element of surprise.
The Mountaineers might eventually get back to the level where they can compete with the best in the country, but it won’t be this year; and they won’t be able to hang with Alabama on Saturday.