Schedule and Odds
No one expected West Virginia to be much of anything last year, yet they were the ones to take down Baylor in the middle of the season. After a tough season that started with Alabama, a 7-6 record was still a positive for the Mountaineers and Dana Holgorsen. With their QB position set, they should once again be a tough out in the Big 12.
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Former starter Clint Trickett retired from football in the offseason due to concussion issues, but that only opened the door for Skyler Howard to be the starter from Day 1. Howard closed last season as the starter and even though only completed 50.9% of his passes, had eight TDs to zero interceptions, as well as providing some work on the ground. With half of the teams in the Big 12 still determining starting QBs, that’s a step-up for WVU. The running back spot is also set with Rushel Shell and Wendell Smallwood back, after the two had a fairly successful 2014. Expect them to make improvements this year, especially the physical Shell after transferring from Pittsburgh before last year.
The one area of question for the Mountaineers is at wide receiver where they lose two huge talents in Kevin White and Mario Alford. The good news for Howard is that they have plenty of able guys in the waiting with Daikiel Shorts, Jordan Thompson and Shelton Gibson. Even the electric backup QB William Crest could be on the receiving end of a number of Howard passes. West Virginia’s offensive line will be a solid group again led by center Tyler Orlosky.
WVU was okay defensively a year ago, but never really flexed its muscle against better teams outside of the Baylor Game, which seemed to be like a championship Game for them.
Starting up front, Kyle Rose brings seniority and experience at nose tackle, but the question on the line will be on the edge where they need to rush opposing quarterbacks better. The Mountaineers have a couple solid juniors, but also added a JUCO transfer in the offseason. The major talking point for this defense is at linebacker though, where they are loaded with seniors and may be the best group in the conference. Combine that with a great secondary and there’s no reason why this defense can’t be a top unit in the Big 12. Just like the LBs, the secondary is also considered one of the best in the conference.
If the offense can somehow reach last year’s levels, this team could be in for a nice season. Fortunately, for the Mountaineers, they should open the season with three straight wins in non-Conference play as Alabama is no longer on their slate. The problem after that is that they have Oklahoma, Baylor and TCU all on the road in the month of October, as well as home to OK State. That is probably the hardest stretch for any team in the nation. A home win over Oklahoma State will be vital to at least get some confidence brewing. It gets better though, as WVU has a solid shot to win their final five Games of the season, with Kansas and Kansas State being their final two road Games.
If the Mountaineers can ride experience on the defensive end and Howard can build off what he did last year, this team could be headed for eight or nine wins, which would be the most they’ve had since joining the Big 12. Don’t be surprised if they are in the Top 25 by season’s end.
2015 West Virginia Football Schedule
Sept. 5 vs. Georgia Southern
Sept. 12 vs. Liberty
Sept. 26 vs. Maryland
Oct. 3 at Oklahoma
Oct. 10 vs. Oklahoma State
Oct. 17 at Baylor
Oct. 29 at TCU
Nov. 7 vs. Texas Tech
Nov. 14 vs. Texas
Nov. 21 at Kansas
Nov. 28 vs. Iowa State
Dec. 5 at Kansas State