8 Reasons Why ...

West Virginia was picked second in the Big 12 Conference at the beginning of the year, and many have the Mountaineers in the top 15 nationally.

Still, there are many things that can prevent WVU from having such a high-profile season. Here are eight reasons why West Virginia could fail to win a Big 12 title. But, don't fret Mountaineer fans, next week I'll give the top eight reasons why WVU could win the title.

Oklahoma is pretty good

West Virginia has a lot of talent, much of which has only been proven once in the Orange Bowl win vs. Clemson. Oklahoma is a national power, more highly regarded and ranked than the Mountaineers and, oh yea, OU has only had a sub-10-win season once since 2006. Sure, Bob Stoops' team comes to Morgantown for one of the most anticipated games in recent memory at Milan Puskar Stadium, but who knows just how these two teams compare. That 2008 Fiesta Bowl was a long, long time ago. The Big East Conference was a different beast then.

Texas, Oklahoma State, Kansas State and TCU are pretty good, too

The difference with the Big 12 compared to the Big East might just be the consistency in competition. There might be a team or two that should be an easier win for WVU, but that's it. In the Big East, there wasn't a tough stretch to be found throughout the conference season. After years and years of the team's biggest game being in non-conference play, it's going to be about the Big 12. And, WVU has to be able to compete week in and week out.

Injuries to key players

This is just the reality of football – and something that could change any team's season. If a key player goes down, specifically on offense, then this season for WVU will be different. There's no experienced backup behind quarterback Geno Smith and there's just about as much depth behind inside receiver Tavon Austin. Even players like center Joe Madsen, defensive end Will Clarke and cornerbacks Brodrick Jenkins and Pat Miller are pretty irreplaceable at this point.

Defensive struggles

West Virginia's offense has shown what it can do at its best. We're not sure even how good – or bad – this defense could be, though. Sure, the talk is nice. And the talk has been pretty good so far since the new staff came to campus. The defense is easier to learn and will play faster. But, when you put it up against some of the best offenses in the country, how does it fare? It's the key to the season really. A defense ranked in the bottom ¾ of the country means a subpar season to me.

Big 12 quarterbacks

Gone are the days where West Virginia doesn't really know which quarterback it will play each game. There are no more Connecticut's in the Big 12. Oklahoma, Kansas State and TCU have three of the best signal callers in the league – better than any, yes any, quarterback the Mountaineers played during the regular season last year.

No single defensive leader

WVU is without a true leader like it had last year. There is no Keith Tandy, Julian Miller, Bruce Irvin or Najee Goode on the roster anymore, and that means there is a lack of experience leadership on this side of the ball. Many of the players have said Jenkins and Miller have stepped up, but they don't see like true leaders to me. If it comes down to a big play late in games, who steps up? If it's not a singular person, does chaos take over?

Inconsistency at kicker/punter

Kicker Tyler Bitancurt and punter Corey Smith weren't necessarily the most consistent players on the team last season. In fact, they might have been the least consistent, and it cost the Mountaineers at times. It's going to cost them even more in the Big 12. A few more punts of 40-plus yards and a few more confident field goal attempts would make a big impact, but that may be a stretch.

Louisville/Cincy/USF offensive stretch

Sure, WVU put up 70 points vs. Clemson. But what about the three games before that when the Mountaineers couldn't even hit the 40-point mark against Louisville, Cincinnati and South Florida? If West Virginia has a stretch of anything like that this season, it could turn into three straight losses.

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