Who Wins The Big 12? West Virginia

As I do each year, I spend a decent amount of time crunching numbers like returning starters, returning yards and points, returning defensive plays made, schedule and trends, intangibles, and more. I then end up predicting every single Big 12 game in the upcoming season, and the last three seasons I correctly picked the Big 12 champion.

In 2010, I picked OU and the Sooners defeated Nebraska in the Big 12 Championship Game, although I must admit I had OU beating Missouri but the Huskers and Tigers were both 6-2 in the North Division. In 2011, I correctly picked Oklahoma State and last season, with more than a few people poking fun at me, I picked Kansas State.

This year for the first time I'm going to share my game-by-game summer prognostication with everybody rather than just one post on how the league will finish. We are well on our way with Kansas picked to finish last again at 2-10 (0-9 in the Big 12) and Iowa State is picked for ninth at 3-9 (1-8 in the conference).

West Virginia Mountaineers
There's a lot of concern here regarding instability. The West Virginia defense was not very good last season and I'm not sure how much it had to do with the play calling. However, that is what head coach Dana Holgorsen thought the problem was so he demoted Joe DeForest and made co-defensive coordinator Keith Patterson the man in charge for this season.

The personnel on defense was not very good. Let's say it was not to elite Big 12 level and I'm pretty sure it isn't there for this season. So if the defense improves dramatically then you can count Patterson as a miracle worker.

Now as for the rest of the defensive staff, DeForest moves to coaching special teams just as he did at Oklahoma State, and the rest of the defensive staff is all new. In fact, Holgorsen, Patterson, DeForest, and offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson are the only holdovers. There are six new coaches on the staff.

I'm sorry but for any reason other than a new head coach coming in I've never heard of that much turnover from one season to the next. You have to wonder what is up. I understand with young Jake Spavital moving to Texas A&M as co-offensive coordinator and Bill Bendenbaugh going to OU, but running backs coach Robert Gillespie leaving for a rebuilding Tennessee is questionable. The defensive staff was gutted.

Now on offense, Holgorsen is one tremendously bright mind that is good at putting together the offense as a system and efficient at guiding its operation on game day. The trouble is the offense lost Geno Smith and his two top targets in Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey.

It doesn't matter if it is FSU transfer Clint Trickett or young Ford Childress at quarterback as neither can be as good this season as Geno Smith was a year ago. The Mountaineers will have a bunch of young receivers to go with veteran Jordan Thompson.

Running backs Andrew Buie and Dustin Garrison, along with Houston transfer Charles Sims, will have a hard time especially with three new starters on the offensive line coming anywhere close to duplicating the 502 yards and near 39 points a game that the Mountaineers averaged last season. Remember they have a new receivers coach, new running backs coach, and new offensive line coach.

Even DeForest, who is one of the best at coaching special teams, has a new kicker, new punter and new returners to break in. Continuity is lacking.

The schedule is a disaster too as they have to play both Oklahoma on the road and Oklahoma State at home in September when they may still be trying to figure it all out. Before OU and in between the two games are nonconference games that will help with the process.

I'm afraid too much change, both in personnel and coaching staff, will handcuff the Mountaineers rebuilding progress.

West Virginia Schedule and Predictions
Aug. 31, William & Mary - Win - Holgorsen never holds back and he shouldn't here as they need to shake W&M like a rag doll.
Sept. 7, @Oklahoma - Loss - Good friend and former OL coach Bill Bedenbaugh will give Sooners great insight into WVU but they won't need it.
Sept. 14, Georgia State - Win - WVU gets a chance to wipe the OU loss out of their minds feasting on undermanned Panthers.
Sept. 21, Maryland @Balt. - Win - Mountaineers only beat Maryland by 10 last season and this could be closer but WVU goes to 3-1.
Sept. 28, Oklahoma State - Loss - Cowboys beat WVU 55-34 in a grudge match last season as Gundy looked across at no less than three of his former assistants and two GAs, not as many left for this one.
Oct. 5, @Baylor - Loss - Art Briles and Baylor DC Phil Bennett remember this one, 70-63 last season, but it won't be close this time.
Oct. 19, Texas Tech - Loss - Holgorsen is reunited with former player and young coach Kliff Kingsbury, and Kingsbury has the better cast.
Oct. 26, @Kansas State - Loss - At home this might go in the WVU win column but not in Snyder's stadium.
Nov. 2, @TCU - Loss - A day of reckoning for TCU and head coach Gary Patterson.
Nov. 9, Texas - Loss - Keep an eye on this one as I predict a close game, and if Texas is starting to get sloppy then I might be wrong here.
Nov. 16, @Kansas - Win - WVU has more chess pieces in this match-up.
Nov. 29, Iowa State - Win - It will be cold with not much on the line but momentum to build on and the Mountaineers get some Thanksgiving weekend satisfaction.

Mountaineers Final Prediction: 5-7 / 2-7 Big 12
It's really simple, too much turnover in important positions and on the coaching staff for a program that has to be really revved up to win week after week. More speed in recruiting means more trips to Florida and a lot of the new coaches know Texas. Staff consistency and recruiting is the cure to what ails the Mountaineers.

Here are the other team previews:
Who Wins the Big 12: Iowa State

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