Predicting WVU’s Wins, Losses
WVU has a tough schedule. Can the Mountaineers make it through?
By Frank Markel
Sep. 3 Virginia Tech at Landover, Maryland.
This is not a typical eight-win Virginia Tech team. It’s coming off a 10-win season that ended with a seven-point loss in the ACC championship game to the national champs followed by a seven-point win in the Belk Bowl. The Hokies have, however, lost a lot on offense and only five returning starters lead the way.
One of those new starters, redshirt freshman QB Josh Jackson, will make his college debut against the dawgs of the West Virginia defense, who lost key pieces of their own. Unfortunately for Jackson, VT will miss last year’s two top passing targets in receivers Isaiah Ford and Bucky Hodges. The Tech offense returns elite running back Travon McMillian, and with a new QB for VT he will need to show up big.
A defense that only gave up 22 points per game last year is returning eight starters. The one weakness is the defensive end position. In order for West Virginia to have success they need to exploit this and Justin Crawford needs to have a big game. Tech’s a very unpredictable team, a dark horse to win the ACC but also if things go wrong they can be playing to simply make a bowl game late November.
This is going to be an intense game, national television, a rivalry renewed, a true toss up. Both offenses will have quarterbacks making team debuts and I expect Will Grier to beat out Jackson late in the game and Mike Molina will slice one through the uprights to send the Mountaineers out of week one with a 1-0 record.
PREDICTION: WVU 33, VT 31
Sep. 9 East Carolina at Morgantown, West Virginia
The rebranding of the East Carolina football program is definitely underway, as this team should hover around four or five wins after a three-win campaign last year. On Sept. 9th, for the first time in 8 years, East Carolina travels to Morgantown.
Former JUCO transfer QB Gardner Minshew leads the Pirates offense. With returning pass catchers Jimmy Williams, Quay Johnson and Stephen Bagget, the Pirates should have similar passing success to last year, with 334 YPG, ranking 6th in the country. The running game was a disaster, however, as they were 110th in the country and new starter Darrell Scott isn’t expected to be much better. The biggest advantage for WVU this game is the battle in the trenches. ECU averaged half a sack a game last year and 4.5 of those six sacks graduated last spring. ECU can put up points on the board but their defense can’t keep them off. Last year they were 109th in the country giving up 36.1 points per game. Expect a great performance by WVU — especially Grier — and the Mountaineers are off to a 2-0 start.
PREDICTION: WVU 38, ECU 17
Sep. 16 Delaware ST. at Morgantown, West Virginia.
Believe it or not, the Delaware State Hornets have played West Virginia before, in women’s basketball. Be honest most college football fans, even the diehard fans, have not heard of Delaware State. Unless they were alive in 1980 when the team played in a memorable game, a 105-0 loss. The worst loss in CFB history.
Remember how WVU beat Missouri last year? Delaware State lost to them 79-0. This is a FCS team that didn’t win a game last year. They had a recruiting class, it wasn’t good. Literally only two of the commitments even have a rating according to 24/7 Sports. They lost by an average of 25 points per game last year. They were out rushed by 128 yards per game. Outpassed by 42 yards per game. WVU should stomp all over these guys but that’s why they play the game. I just don’t see how DSU can even last a quarter with WV.
PREDICTION: WVU 63, DSU 3
Sep. 23 Kansas at Lawrence, Kansas.
Kansas again is expected to be in the cellar of the Big 12. At this point they should be used to it. The last time the Jayhawks had a better record than the Mountaineers was 2007 when WVU went 11-2 to Kansas’s 12-1 record. That was also Kansas last 6+ win season. The Mountaineers did lose in Lawrence back in 2013 but have not lost to Kansas since.
The Jayhawks defense has talent but has no experience in the back. The defensive line, with returning starters Dee Isaac Davis, Daniel Wise and Dorance Armstrong JR, can give any offensive line in college football a dog fight. This will make it tough for WVU to run the ball. Expect runs of 2, 3 yards with the occasional burst for 20+. With the run game struggling, Grier will need to feast on the young, thin Kansas D backs. Expect a big outing for Grier, 350+ yards. West Virginia should score over 35 points in this game with the question being: Can Kansas score? No. Kansas scored 20 PPG last year what was 120th in the nation. They lost their QB, RB, top WR and the whole right side of their offensive line. Four transfers are expected to start this year for the KU offense. Expect WV to score early and often in this one.
PREDICTION: WVU 47, KU 17
Oct. 7 TCU at Fort Worth, Texas.
TCU is returning its core skill players in QB Kenny Hill, RB Kyle Hicks and WR Taj Williams who all got the starting nod last year for the Horned Frogs offense. For the first time in ages TCU might try to run the ball this season with the most fearful group on the team being the RB corps. WVU should have the D backs to shut down TCU’s passing game, but the running game with Hicks and Sewo Olonilua could set up long scoring drives for the Horned Frogs.
The TCU defense led the Big 12 in sacks last year but three fourths of those have their diplomas now. TCU does return All-Big 12 linebacker Travin Howard who has had back-to-back 100 tackle seasons. The Horned Frogs also get back junior safety Niko Small, and combined with first time starter Ridwan Issahaku, he is expected to put up big numbers this season.
For a TCU vs West Virginia game this one should be low scoring. I expect TCU to be coming off a loss for this game. In the last five years WV has lost to TCU by one point, twice. Expect the same fate this time.
PREDICTION: TCU 21, WVU 20
Oct. 14 Texas Tech at Morgantown, West Virginia.
Texas Tech was 5-7 last year even though they had one of the top QBs in the game in Patrick Mahomes JR. He led the best passing attack in the nation. He is gone now and senior Nic Shimonek takes over in his place. He played one half of football last year and threw for 271 yards and 4 TDs, but take it with a grain of salt as it was against Kansas.
Texas Tech has a three-way battle to find a starting running back, none of which are expected to put up big numbers and pair that with a young offensive line and that sets up a shaky running game. KeKe Coutee is expected to start for the first time of his college career this season. Last year he put up 890 yards and seven touchdowns on just 55 catches. The TTU defense was, well, a dumpster fire last year, putting up the worst numbers in the country. The brightest spot is Jordyn Brooks who had 86 tackles as a true freshman last year out of the linebacker spot. Expect a shootout in this one. I expect over 1,000 yards from scrimmage and WVU with a late touchdown wins it and moves to 5-1
PREDICTION: WVU 48, TTU 45
Oct. 21 Baylor at Waco, Texas.
Baylor looked like it was going to compete with Oklahoma at the top of the Big 12 leaderboard again before Seth Russell suffered that devastating leg injury in Norman midseason. Baylor lost every remaining regular season game. His replacement, QB Zach Smith, paired with RB Terrance Williams and WR Blake Lynch led a three-headed monster for the Baylor offense. The offensive line lacks depth and needs a great season from all of its incoming freshman. They should score points and can win shootouts and they’re going to need it with the defense they have.
The defense was average in most categories last year. The secondary has talent but no depth and no big time experience. That whole defense will need to step up big time all season and this game is no different. Crawford and Grier should put up numbers. Smith has an arm too, it’s a good one and he can fire the deep ball. Both offenses can put up points but WVU has the advantage on defense. Give me the Mountaineers by a touchdown.
PREDICTION: WVU 34, BU 27
Oct. 28 Oklahoma State at Morgantown, West Virginia.
Last year Oklahoma State ended WVU’s hot start and was one win away from a Big 12 championship. A year later the Cowboys are expected to be in the title race again. Behind center is Mason Rudolph who could be the best quarterback in the Big 12 this year. Pair Rudolph with receivers James Washington and Marcell Ateman and you get a unstoppable passing attack, but Washington is likely out for the year with injuries.
RB Justice Hill had 1,142 yards last year and six touchdowns. OSU did lose some key pieces in NT Vincent Taylor and they lost a combined 45 starts along the offensive line. The defense lost a lot and only returns five starters. They are young and don’t have depth. If WVU has a shot in this game they need to put up points galore. I expect this game to almost be like the Oklahoma game in 2012 on Tavon’s night. Great game, a shootout, but WVU falls short by the skin of the teeth.
PREDICTION: OSU 49, WVU 48
Nov. 4 Iowa State at Morgantown, West Virginia.
Iowa State had a rough season last year going 3-9 and 2-7 in Big 12 play. The ISU offense should be atop the leaderboards this year with the arm of QB Jacob Park and the RB punch of David Montgomery and Mike Warren. Expect a lot from the ISU offense.
While the offense will be scoring it’s the defense that is going to be the biggest part of weather or not ISU has a bowl game. The defense has key veterans in safety Kamari Cotton-Moya and cornerback Brian Peavey that are the main keys to the defense. The lack of bodies on the O-line and D-line is a pain point for ISU, that’s where WVU might have their biggest advantage this game. Expect the Mountaineers to be pumped after a loss and get up on the Cyclones early.
PREDICTION: WVU 38, ISU 27
Nov. 11 Kansas State at Manhattan, Kansas.
Bill Snyder takes on another season coaching the Wildcats of KSU. This is a better team than last year, when the Wildcats were unable to close out a game they dominated in Morgantown. The offense is led by QB Jesse Ertz who was a standout last year vs Texas A&M in the Texas Bowl. This isn’t your typical Big 12 team. KSU’s success is going to be via the defense. One with secondary standouts DJ Reed, Duke Shelley and Kendall Adams. The weakness is the front seven of the defense. With two stars heading to NFL training camps the young core is going to have to step up big. Expect Grier to have a lot of time to throw in this one and expect Crawford to break some big ones for WVU.
PREDICTION: WVU 22, KSU 17
Nov. 18 Texas at Morgantown, West Virginia.
Charlie Strong is gone and that’s a good thing for the Longhorns. Former Houston coach Tom Herman is now in charge down in Austin. Texas has a very good looking offense with QB Shane Buechele, RB Chris Warren and WR Collin Johnson. This is an offense that can score points so the Mountaineers might need 12 men on the field every play (wink wink).
Several positions lack bodies for Texas and one of those is the secondary. This is a team that should get used to giving up over 250 passing yards per game. The defense can stop the run and could get some sacks. WVU needs to pass the ball this game or else Texas comes out of Morgantown with a win. Texas has now missed a bowl game two years in a row. I expect that streak to end. I don’t expect their losing streak to the Mountaineers to end however. WVU takes this one.
PREDICTION: WVU 24, TEX 17
Nov. 25 Oklahoma at Norman, Oklahoma.
The Sooners are going to be a 10-win team, again, while the second best Big 12 quarterback Baker Mayfield leads the OU offense which lost 4,500 yards from scrimmage to the NFL last season. They do return all five starting offensive lineman. This will help new starter RB Abdul Adams settled in a little bit.
If WVU has a shot they need to stop the run game before it gets going and not muff punts minutes into the game. If OU can’t run the ball WVU can play with extra D backs and stop the whole OU offense. The problem is I don’t think that happens. The OU defense gives up few points and is centered around great linebackers like Caleb Kelly. To be completely honest I don’t see how WVU scores enough points to win the ballgame. This one goes to the Sooners.
PREDICTION: OU 34, WVU 21
BOWL GAME POSSIBILITIES
At 9-3 WV will get themselves a good bowl game, here are some possibilities:
Liberty Bowl Vs Tennessee
Texas Bowl Vs Texas A&M
Cactus Bowl Vs UCLA
Alamo Bowl Vs Oregon
Camping World Bowl Vs Pitt (wouldn’t that be something)