Opponent: West Virginia
Kickoff: October 9th
Location: McLane Stadium
Conference: Big 12
Head Coach: Neal Brown (entering third year)
Last Year’s Record: 6-4
Notable Outcomes: Beat Baylor 27-21 in OT; lost to Iowa State 42-6; beat Army 24-21
Key Losses: Darius Still, DT; Tykee Smith, S; Tony Fields, LB
Strength: Offensive line. The Mountaineers return a ton of talent and experience. Brandon Yates is an exceptional left tackle, while Zach Frazier and James Gmiter are strong interior blockers. The Mountaineers also add two transfers that will likely see significant playing time in Doug Nester from Virginia Tech and Ja’Quay Hubbard from Virginia.
Weakness: Quarterback. Jarret Doege started every game last season for the Mountaineers, which would typically be a good sign. And he had a solid year, throwing for 2,587 yards and 14 touchdowns with just four interceptions. However, he played so poorly in the Mountaineers’ bowl game win against Army that he was pulled in favor of Austin Kendall. So there are some general questions about what the quarterback position will look like, if Doege will start again, and if he will still be rattled. However, if Doege plays like he is capable of, then this weakness could become a potential strength, as this is just an assessment of where things currently stand.
Way Too Early Prediction: As I have said in weeks past, I am taking an optimistic outlook on Baylor’s offensive progression between last season and this season, because the Bears really can’t be that much worse on that side of the ball. If that is the case, I think Baylor gets this win. Baylor’s defense ought to surpass West Virginia’s as the Mountaineers lost a handful of their top defenders from last season. Further, Baylor’s stout linebacking crew will likely make a mess of things for whoever is leading the West Virginia offense. Even with how ugly last season was at times for Baylor, their defense almost singlehandedly willed the Bears to a victory over what was, at least defensively, a better Mountaineers squad than this year’s.