Opponent: West Virginia
Kickoff: October 13th
Location: Milan Puskar Stadium (Morgantown, WV)
Conference: Big 12
Head Coach: Neal Brown (entering 4th year)
Last Year’s Record: 6-7
Notable Outcomes: Lost to Baylor 45-20; beat Texas 31-23; lost to Minnesota 18-6
Key Losses: Leddie Brown, RB; Akheem Mesidor, DL; Jarret Doege, QB
Key Returners: Dante Stills, DT; Bryce Ford-Wheaton, WR; Casey Legg, K
Strength: Offensive line. The Mountaineers return all five of their starters from last season, which is a group including one senior, three juniors, and one sophomore. While the offense wasn’t all that much to write home about last year, particularly struggling in the run game, having that level of returning experience will certainly help make the transition to new transfer quarterback JT Daniels much easier. Also, honorary mention in this category is kicker, as all-name team placekicker Casey Legg returns, who hit 19 of 23 field goals last season.
Weakness: Secondary. The Mountaineers lost all of their secondary two-deep from last year except cornerback Charles Woods. They have some transfers and younger talent who might be able to step up, but I suspect the secondary will be a work in progress for much of the Mountaineers’ season.
Way Too Early Prediction: I’ll be blunt: West Virginia has been the epitome average ever since Dana Holgorsen left and was replaced by Neal Brown. I suspect this might be Brown’s last season at West Virginia unless he pulls off a minor miracle. The Bears put a pretty good beating on West Virginia last year and, on paper, nothing makes me think that won’t happen again this year unless JT Daniels really gets the WVU offense going. That said, the other concern is that this is another Thursday night game in mid-October in Morgantown, a notoriously difficult out for the Bears. While I really hope that the Big 12’s expansion does away with this seemingly bi-annual Thursday night nightmare, that is the reality of the game this year. So that short week (thankfully with a bye before) and long trip might make this game closer than it should be, but I expect the Baylor offense to overwhelm a mostly depleted Mountaineers defense and the Baylor defense to check a new look (but probably still average) WVU offense.