It can be difficult at times to be objective about a team you cover day in and day out, as we do with West Virginia. We obviously know more about the team than any other, but that can cut both ways in terms of evaluating the Mountaineers against all the other squads in the Big 12. While we know of potential strengths and players on the rise that others don't, we also might tend to view potential problem areas more critically.
We're also sensitive to complaints about homerism, so there's extra care take to make sure than nothing is being viewed through lenses colored gold and blue, still, the overall consensus of the group is that, while reasonably fair, the rankings might have WVU below where it should be.
Greg Hunter: I don’t have any huge argument with the Mountaineers being picked No. 6 in this year’s Big 12 preseason media poll. I had a vote in the poll this year, and I placed West Virginia at No. 4, but I recognize that the teams who are four through seven (WVU, Oklahoma State, Texas and Kansas State) are all similar, and any of those teams could be realistically slotted in any of those middle spots, behind the first three and ahead of the last three. Each of those middle four has warts, but I believe the Mountaineers don’t have quite as many, thus I selected them to head that group at No. 4, but in back of TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma.
Matt Keller: The Mountaineers' preseason tab of sixth is a touch low. But who could blame media pundits after a pair of November nosedives the previous two seasons? However, WVU, with an experienced, depth-laden defense going into its second season, solid specialists and an offensive system proven to score points, would seem to best fit in the fifth slot. That would, barring the barrage of in-conference record ties, likely put West Virginia at 8-4 overall, 5-4 in the Big 12, with losses to TCU, Baylor, Oklahoma and one other. The team riding too high? Oklahoma State. A late punt return for the win in Bedlam and a bowl victory have inflated thoughts around the 'Pokes. OSU is capable, but placing it fourth is a mistake. Still waters might run deep, but State doesn't.
Roger "CJ" Harvey: ‘Undervalued’ is the word that comes to mind for WVU. This is the deepest team head coach Dana Holgorsen has had under his belt, and a filthy defense will prove such. Placing the Mountaineers at sixth shows the media’s lack of attention to the team. A veteran defense and some solid offensive weapons will shock some teams. As for the rest of the poll, TCU and Baylor will again be competing for first place, but Oklahoma State and Texas at four and five are questionable. The Longhorns will have quarterback trouble with Tyrone Swoopes, and OSU might not be able to protect their quarterback with three underclassman on the offensive line.
Connor Murray: Coming off an up-and-down 5-4 season within the Big 12, I believe WVU is right at home in the middle of the pack in the conference preseason poll. West Virginia showed signs of breaking into the Big 12's top tier through the first half of the 2014 season, but a second half swoon, capped off by a loss to Texas A&M in the Liberty Bowl brought the Mountaineers back to earth at the end of the year. While WVU's defense has gotten plenty of publicity as one of the most improved units in college football heading into 2015, question marks on offense temper many critics' expectations when making predictions for the upcoming season. I would have West Virginia ranked No. 5, ahead of Texas in my own preseason poll, but believe the rest of the ranking released by the Big 12 today is a good barometer of how everyone in the league stacks up heading into 2015.
Kevin Kinder: I'm viewed by my colleagues as being the most pessimistic when evaluating the Mountaineers, but that's born from the desire to be as objective as possible. Even with that as the operating principle, though, West Virginia is too low in the preseason selections. The slights aren't egregious, but I probably would have put WVU fourth. The biggest problem with this year's poll is, as usual, the rankings of Oklahoma and Texas. It's not that those teams don't have talent, but shouldn't they have to do something on the field to justify the overinflation they enjoy every year? TCU and Baylor enjoy a significant, and earned gap, atop the league, but after the the Mountaineers might compete for as high as number three in the conference.