Fearless Picks: Forecasting the West Virginia - Missouri 2016 Football Opener

Connor Murray rode off into the sunset with a new job as well as our 2015 picks title, so there's an open scramble to grab the abdicated throne in 2016. Our panel balances optimism with realistic assessments -- at least from their viewpoint -- to take on the season opener against Missouri.

Jeff Cobb Last Week: - Season: 0-0 Point Differential: 0
West Virginia doubles up Mizzou...almost. WVU's offense will pick up where it left off in the Cactus Bowl, and defense will do enough to hold off a Missouri team breaking in a new head coach and a lot of other new pieces on offense.
  West Virginia 39-20  
Andy Easton Last Week: - Season: 0-0 Point Differential: 0
For the past 18 years Mountaineer fans all over the state have been gritting their teeth in hopes of revenge for the 1998 Bowl loss to the Missouri Tigers. Ok, that might be over exaggerated, but it would be nice to start off West Virginia's 125th season with a win over a team from the SEC. The records seem to favor WVU as Missouri is just 6-16-3 in road openers and 3-6-1 in coaching debuts since 1935. On the other hand, WVU is 31-4-1 in Milan Puskar Stadium home openers and 5-0 under Dana Holgorsen. The Tiger defensive line will be a stout early test for the Mountaineers and will be a determining factor in the outcome. If the WVU OL can keep WVU QB Skylar Howard upright the Blue and Gold should start the season with a win. If not, it will be a long day for the WVU offense. WVU should have enough to squeak by the Tigers but not by the 10 points that Las Vegas has predicted.
  West Virginia 31-27  
Greg Hunter
Last Week: - Season: 0-0 Point Differential: 0
Normally a season opener against a Power 5 opponent would be cause for great concern, even at home. In the last 60 years, WVU is just 4-7-1 against major college football foes in season openers at Mountaineer Field (new or old). Trying to predict one season based solely off the results of the previous year is always fraught with danger. And on top of that, Missouri is bringing a new head coach, a new offensive coordinator and a new offensive system to Morgantown, so comparing the 2015 Tigers to the 2016 version is difficult. Still, that’s our assignment, and on paper, this comparison looks favorable for West Virginia. WVU fields an offense that returns 11 players who have started five or more games in their career. Conversely the Mountaineer defense has just three such experienced returnees. West Virginia’s defense won’t necessarily be young, as it will likely start nine seniors and two juniors, but it is short on starting experience. Thus it may take the WVU defense a while to blend together. Fortunately its game one opponent featured one of the worst offenses in college football last year, as Mizzou was 126th out of 127 FBS teams in scoring offense (13.6 points per game) and 124th in total offense (280.9 yards per game). Now the Tiger defense was excellent (fifth nationally in scoring defense at 16.2 points a game), but the Mountaineers should have enough offensive firepower to find the end zone at least a few times. And West Virginia’s rebuilt defense should be able to match up well against a Missouri offense that was pretty inept last season.
  West Virginia 28-17  
Brian Jolliff Last Week: - Season: 0-0 Point Differential: 0
Football season is finally upon us and thank goodness, given the drama that has surrounded the team over the last few weeks. But the Mountaineers are not the only team playing this Saturday in Morgantown, as Missouri comes in with a new coaching staff and new look offense. I think the pressure squarely falls on the WVU offense this weekend, and that will dictate whether we see a solid win by the Mountaineers or a chest-pain inducing grinder game. As this is the first game of the season, I'm going to side with the home crowd and the better-equipped Mountaineers.
  West Virginia 38-24  
Matt Keller Last Week: - Season: 0-0 Point Differential: 0
West Virginia and Missouri are near mirror images of each other - meaning they literally are opposites. The Mountaineers enter with what's expected to be among the Big 12's top scoring offenses and a rebuilt defense sans multiple two-deep players due to injuries. The Tigers were excellent defensively last season, but averaged just 13.6 points per game to finish just 5-7 with losses in six of their last seven.With the elevation of former defensive coordinator Barry Odom to head coach, that side of the ball should be every bit as good as last season. But the offense should continue to struggle, and that combined with some fourth and fifth-year players on Tony Gibson's defense - and a multifaceted WVU offense - should allow the home team to win this one. It's West Virginia, but closer than expected.
  West Virginia 30-20  
Jonathan Martin Last Week: - Season: 0-0 Point Differential: 0
Football. Is. Back. It's hard to believe it's that time again. So what do we make of this West Virginia team? The Mountaineers open up against a respectable Missouri squad. Both teams have a mixture of experience and holes to fill. One thing I feel certain of ... lots of points. Luckily, I believe WVU will be getting most of them.
  West Virginia 35-24  
Brian McCracken Last Week: - Season: 0-0 Point Differential: 0
For the first time since facing Wisconsin in 2003 West Virginia will open its season at home against a Power 5 opponent. This year the Mountaineers open up with a Missouri team that should have one of the better defenses in the country, as it returns a plethora of talented starters from a unit that finished No.6 in the country in total defense a year ago. Conversely, the Mountaineers’ strength should be on the offensive side of the football as they return senior quarterback Skyler Howard, four starting offensive linemen and every major contributor at the receiver position. Whoever consistently wins the battle between the WVU offense and the Missouri defense will probably win the game, as Missouri’s offense, which was one of the most inept units in the country last season (125th out of 128 FBS teams in total offense), will go up against a West Virginia defense that replaces nine opening day starters from a year ago. I think Missouri’s offense will be somewhat improved and West Virginia’s inexperienced defense will probably give up a few big plays before the day is over, but Tony Gibson’s unit will do enough to get some big stops and force a turnover or two. On the other side of the ball West Virginia has too many play-makers to not break some big plays of their own and I think the Mountaineers start pulling away in the second half.
  West Virginia 34-24  
Chris Richardson Last Week: - Season: 0-0 Point Differential: 0
Personally, there's no more important game of the season for me. Living in Missouri surrounded by Mizzou fans, I need some bragging rights. The Tiger faithful are good people and I have no ill will towards their program. I hope they go 11-1 in the regular season with 11 straight wins to close it. But I can't let them win this one. A few weeks ago, I would have highlighted the war in the trenches between WVU's offensive line and the always talented defensive line of Mizzou. However, the Tigers front has been decimated by academic and disciplinary casualties in fall camp, giving the edge to the Mountaineers where it counts. I'm anxious to see newcomer Justin Crawford at running back. I'm curious to see how Skyler Howard has progressed heading into his senior season. And I really want to see how the young secondary comes together. All told, it should be an interesting year. This one's for the Big 12. Thanks for leaving the light on for us.
  West Virginia 38-27  

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