Big 12: West Virginia Mountaineers
Neal Brown went 4-8 in his first season as the head coach of Troy back in 2015. The 2016 Trojans went 10-3 in the first of three straight double-digit win seasons under his reign.
2019 West Virginia was supposed to need a whole lot of reworking, but even so, 5-7 wasn’t quite right. The program has been good enough to overcome personnel losses with enough plug-and-play talent to at least go bowling.
Before last season, the Mountaineers went to five straight bowls and only missed out one other time since 2001. But with two wins in the final three games, and a good fight out of the team despite not having the offensive pop to keep up in the high-powered Big 12, this is when things should start to turn.
Start with the bad – there are just enough transfer losses to be annoying, including safety Jovanni Stewart – who only played in four games – leaving for Houston, and offensive guard Josh Sills taking off for Oklahoma State.
However, Brown and the Mountaineers did exactly what they were supposed to do last season – start the young guys.
It wasn’t pretty, and the overall production wasn’t there, but the youth movement and all the time given to underclassmen should payoff with almost everyone back on offense, and with at least eight starters expected to return on defense.
And then there’s the schedule.
The Mountaineers had to deal with Missouri, Texas, Iowa State, Oklahoma and Baylor in the first two months of last season, and it was a problem. This year, they start out – if the world is still spinning – against Florida State in Atlanta, but four of the next five games are against teams that didn’t go bowling last season, and the one that did – Kansas State – is a manageable home date.
The Oklahoma game is at home coming off a two-week break, and Baylor is a home game, too.