I know, I'll start this column out on a down note, but it's just what I believe will happen. The ACC is a better conference, and Clemson is a more balanced and tested team. The game will be close, but the Mountaineers' defense or special teams will struggle at some point – as it has throughout the 2011 season – and that will eventually be the turning point of the contest.
Jeff Casteel will continue to coach at WVU
Rumors have been swirling around defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel's future with WVU after the Mountaineers' former coach Rich Rodriguez was hired at Arizona. While that may be an enticing opportunity, as I think Rodriguez is going to be really successful down in Tuscon, Casteel will stay at WVU. He is highly paid and in a situation built for success. There's no reason for him to leave unless his job isn't as secure as it seems to be.
The WVU men's basketball team will make the NCAA tournament
It might be a close finish and perhaps the Mountaineers' bubble might bust, but with what is expected to be another top-notch RPI and a solid record, West Virginia should be an NCAA tournament team with a .500 or better record in Big East play. With seniors Kevin Jones and Truck Bryant in lead roles, the Mountaineers might not be a one-and-done team, either.
Geno Smith will top his numbers from 2011
This may seem like a gimme type of a prediction, but it is more of a stretch if you think about it. Smith has stayed healthy this season despite a terrible offensive line and little to no run game. It has been a miracle that he hasn't had to sit out. However, he will stay healthy in 2012 and have his top three receivers back. The Big 12 Conference (if that is where WVU ends up playing next year) allows the Mountaineers a better opportunity to put up points and yards.
WVU's defense will struggle in its first season in the Big 12
While the offense will put up some more records, the WVU defense could struggle in 2012. In the Big East Conference, there weren't any quarterbacks that could be compared to the likes of Robert Griffin III, Landry Jones, Brandon Weeden and Collin Klein. Some of those players won't be playing college ball next year, but there is no doubt more signal callers waiting in the wings to scare the Mountaineers' defense.
The WVU football offense will finish in the top 10 in scoring and total yards
In head coach Dana Holgorsen's term sheet, he is given incentives for having a top 10 offense. I'd expect the then-Mountaineers' second-year head coach to be rolling in the dough after next season, because Smith and company will put up some huge totals. The Mountaineers will return some of the most experienced talent in the country at quarterback and receiver, and it will show.
Kevin Jones will be selected in the second round of the NBA draft
Right now, Jones leads the Big East in points per game and rebounds per game … just think about that for a second. He is really good, and his improvement across the board is showing this season. Head coach Bob Huggins has discussed many times this season about how strong rebounders and defenders will get a chance in the NBA. I don't know what better way to describe Jones than that.
WVU will start to the 2012 football season ranked in the top 25 and finish just outside the rankings
The Mountaineer sure have a lot of potential heading into their first year in the Big 12. They will have a top-notch offense and some potential on defense. But, there are weaknesses on defense and at special teams. Heading into a new conference, there are so many unknowns. If you look at the teams who did switch this year (Colorado, Nebraska and Utah), there were some unforeseen struggles at times. An 8-4 season would be average but not unexpected.
Greg Van Zant will not be a WVU head coach come July
I don't know how the veteran baseball coach has continued to get a pass from both Oliver Luck and Ed Pastilong. I have a feeling this will be the end. With the move to the Big 12, baseball is a bit more important. It is the most important non-revenue sport for the conference. If the Mountaineers finish below .500, I'd say Van Zant is out of here unless something else bigger comes along (like Stewart/Holgorsen drama last year).
WVU women's soccer will win the program's first Big 12 title
It's going to take some time for the Mountaineers to find consistent success in the Big 12 like it had in the Big East. But, if there's a program that will find early success in the conference, it has to be the women's soccer team – who has won two straight Big East titles. Head coach Nikki Izzo-Brown is a consistent winner, and she will continue that trade in the Big 12. It might start as early as next year.
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