Opponent: West Virginia
Nickname: The Mountaineers
Kickoff: October 31st, 7:00 PM
Location: McLane Stadium
Conference: Big XII
Head coach: Neal Brown
Last year’s record: 8-4
Notable outcomes: Beat Baylor 58-14; Beat Texas 42-41; Lost to Iowa State 30-14
Key Losses: Will Grier, QB; David Sills V, WR; David Long JR., LB
Strength: Running backs. The Mountaineers are stacked in the running back department with two seniors, Kennedy McKoy and Martell Pettaway returning. WVU also has a pair of strong sophomore contenders to round out the running corps.
Weakness: Offensive line. West Virginia lost a number of key pieces in the offensive line, including Yodny Cajuste who was drafted by the Patriots. This weakness might very well dampen the strength of their running backs unless some new starters step up in a big way.
Prediction: West Virginia absolutely destroyed Baylor last year. It was possibly the ugliest loss of the Rhule era if you focus purely on the quality of the game. However, most of the talent that torched Baylor last year is gone for the Mountaineers. They lost their quarterback to the NFL along with a pair of key receivers, critical offensive line pieces, and the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, David Long Jr. They also lost their head coach, Dana Holgorsen, who bolted for Houston. Incoming head coach Neal Brown is going to be mixing things up, switching the defense from a 3-3-5 to a 4-2. He’s a good coach who can get the Mountaineers back on track. But year one success might be a stretch for Brown and West Virginia.
Personnel wise this is not the same team that dismantled Baylor. It’s not the same coaching staff. It’s not the same venue (the Bears play this game at home this year). However, it is another weekday game (last year’s game was also on a Thursday). So unless the Bears are cursed by weekday contests, this is a totally different ball game from last year (especially since those midweek games seem to throw off visiting teams that have to travel far more than home teams). I think the Bears will be able to successfully bring pressure against the Mountaineers’ weakened offensive line and less experienced quarterback (be it Oklahoma transfer Austin Kendall or Miami transfer Jack Allison), while taking advantage of a defense that might still be figuring out its new schemes. Plus, Baylor should just have overall better talent than West Virginia this season.