8 reasons why ...

Last week I wrote a column about eight reasons West Virginia might not win the Big 12 Conference in 2012. It was probably a big dose of reality for some. Now, I'll take a more positive look at why WVU could win the Big 12 this year.

I'm guessing you'll like this list a bit better.

The offense will be even better

Quarterback Geno Smith called himself a completely different player from a year ago, and considering how good he was in the first year of head coach Dana Holgorsen's system, that could be scary. With added weight, Smith has a shot at the Heisman Trophy. Add in threats on the outside like receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey and I'd be shocked if the Mountaineers weren't a top 10 offensive team this year.

The defense will fit the Big 12 perfectly

WVU is moving from a 3-3-5 defense to a 3-4 with the ability to look 4-3 at times. There's a bit more opportunity to be multiple under new defensive coordinator Joe DeForest. The Mountaineers have the type of bodies to make a quick, aggressive defensive unit in 2012, which might be exactly what has to happen if it is to make a splash in its first year in a new conference.

Already acclimated to Big 12 competition

West Virginia's players might not know much about the Big 12, but its coaching staff sure does. The Mountaineers have done something that no other team moving to a new conference due to realignment has – pulled coaches away from the conference they are heading to. This season will be a test to see if that style of thinking can lead to success.

Confidence from Orange Bowl

There's no doubt about it, this team is still feeling it from the 70-33 Orange Bowl victory over Clemson more than eight months ago. But, that might be the best thing about all of this – the team changed that night. It went from one that was barely beating Big East teams to one that could upset one of the best in the nation. There's intensity and swagger the likes we haven't seen around here in a long, long time.

Slew of defensive leaders

While the defensive leaders of last year are all gone, there are a talented group of players back and some who are becoming even more vocal in the new defensive scheme. Players say cornerbacks Pat Miller and Brodrick Jenkins are giving it their all. Will Clarke, too. Terence Garvin and Darwin Cook are sure-fire leaders, as well. This team might have more leadership potential than many defenses in the past for WVU.

More consistent special teams

There's two good things about special teams heading into this year to take note of … 1) WVU's kicker and punter return and 2) considering the results, they'll probably get better. Tyler Bitancurt and Corey Smith look better during camp, and it seems that this entire unit is becoming more consistent due to the influx of special teams knowledge DeForest brought with him.

Geno for Heisman

If the Mountaineers are winning, the chances of Smith winning the Heisman go up immensely. To me, when a team has a player up for an award like that, that team plays 10 times as hard to make sure nobody else gets that honor. That's what I would assume WVU would do, too. And, if that's the case, West Virginia should be fighting harder and wanting it more than just about any team on its schedule.

New team in town

There really isn't an easy way for Big 12 opponents to know what West Virginia will bring to the table each week. If WVU doesn't even know, I don't know how its opponents will either. Coming to Morgantown for a game is no slouch, as many Big 12 teams will find out shortly. There is a sense of mysterious expectations with these Mountaineers.

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