More was expected from West Virginia last year coming off a 10-win campaign, but a late injury to quarterback Will Grier derailed the season completely. Now, the Mountaineers are one of the lone teams in the Big 12 with their quarterback returning, meaning they’ll be in the mix for the title Game. The early odds placed them in a mix behind Oklahoma with the Mountaineers +6300 to win the National Championship, yet only an over/under of seven wins at 5Dimes Sportsbook.
The path to success is clear for the Mountaineers in that it goes through Grier, who had early +2000 odds to win the Heisman, seventh-best in the nation. He should be fully recovered from a broken finger and that should help the offense surpass last year’s 36.3 points per Game. The line has enough returning, with its key tackles on the outside, while top receivers David Sills (18 TDs) and Gary Jennings (94 receptions, 1,030 yards) are both expected to have similarly huge seasons. Getting more of a ground Game will be key after WVU went for just 4.4 yards per carry as a team. Kennedy McKoy (565 yards) will move into a bigger role, although Alec Sinkfield stole the headlines in the spring and could finish with better numbers. Grier is coming off a solid 34 TD and 12 INT season in which he reached 9.00 yards per attempt and there’s reason to believe he can top those numbers if healthy the entire way.
Reaching the Big 12 title Game will require a bit more from the defense, which was wretched last year allowing more than 31 points per Game and not stopping many teams on the ground or through the air. The line got some help in the offseason through transfers from Clemson and USC and that should help in terms of run defense. David Long can be great at linebacker, but there are questions around him in the 3-5-5 scheme. It also doesn’t help that a couple new faces will man the spots at corner. Safeties Dravon Askew-Henry and Kenny Robinson will be asked to do more if the corners can’t improve on what last year’s group did.
The Schedule isn’t easy, but it’s workable even with non-Conference Games against Tennessee and NC State. The trip to Raleigh will likely be the more difficult Game and present Grier with one of the toughest defenses he’ll face this season. The Big 12 Schedule sets up so that the Mountaineers have to close the campaign with their hardest tests, although hosting TCU and Oklahoma is favorable. To be in position for the title Game, WVU may have to win its first five in Conference play and there’s a decent chance they’ll be favored in all of them. With Grier leading the offense that may be enough to reach seven or eight wins alone. But to do a little more and get a nicer bowl Game, the defense will have to take a step and hope some of the new transfers provide more than what was shown last season.
2018 West Virginia Mountaineers Football Schedule
Sept. 1 vs. Tennessee (Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte)
Sept. 8 vs. Youngstown State
Sept. 15 at NC State
Sept. 22 vs. Kansas State
Sept. 29 at Texas Tech
Oct. 6 vs. Kansas
Oct. 13 at Iowa State
Oct. 25 vs. Baylor
Nov. 3 at Texas
Nov. 10 vs. TCU
Nov. 17 at Oklahoma State
Nov. 23 vs. Oklahoma