West Virginia Football: What to Expect from 2012 Mountaineers
The 2012 West Virginia football team will be the start of a new era. The Mountaineers are now affiliated with the Big 12 Conference.
While teams have difficult times transitioning to a new conference, especially one as offensive-minded as the Big 12, it's possible WVU can have a storied season.
The Mountaineers hope to build off of a record-setting night at the Orange Bowl, piling up 70 points against the champions of the Atlantic Coast Conference, Clemson.
Here's a look at some potential achievements that WVU will have this upcoming season.
Increased Attendance at Milan Puskar Stadium
Mountaineer Field will be electric this season with the new level of competition. Teams like Baylor and Oklahoma will be visiting Morgantown, W.Va., and Milan Puskar Stadium.
While Milan Puskar Stadium seats more than 60,000 people, the highest attended game in 2011 was a little over 62,000 against LSU.
The lowest attended game last season was against Bowling Green, mainly due to cold, rainy weather. That game saw an attendance a little over 46,600.
While Milan Puskar Stadium is usually a tough place to play, attendance was a bit down last season.
Expect the attendance to skyrocket after an Orange Bowl win and higher level of competition in the Big 12.
A Winning Big 12 Record
West Virginia has a great opportunity to be successful in the Big 12 Conference. Obviously this is a tougher road to a BCS game than in the Big East Conference, but it's certainly manageable.
The Mountaineers open up the Big 12 season against Baylor at home. This is going to be a good test to see where WVU stands. The Bears have a good quarterback in Nick Florence, along with solid receivers in Tevin Reese and Terrance Williams.
The ultimate road test will be against the Texas Longhorns in Austin. That game will tell a lot in how much this West Virginia group can compete on the road against a solid football team.
Another key road game will be against Oklahoma State. Key home games will be against Kansas State, TCU and powerhouse Oklahoma.
Consistency will be imperative to the Mountaineers success. There can simply be no off weeks against this level of competition.
A Trip to NYC for Geno
Geno Smith has a very likely chance to get an invitation to the Heisman Trophy ceremony in New York City this year.
The quarterback will thrive in Dana Holgorsen's system for a second season. Numbers have shown that guys who have worked with Holgorsen have improved statistically from year one to year two.
In a conference that isn't very defensive-oriented, Smith will have opportunities to light up the scoreboard with his offensive options.
Other potential winners for this award include Matt Barkley out of USC, Denard Robinson from Michigan and Landry Jones out of Oklahoma.
If Smith plays smart football, he will get himself more national recognition and more talk for the Heisman.
A New Look Defense
New Defensive Coordinator Joe DeForest will lead a new look 3-4 alignment for the Mountaineers.
Former coordinator Jeff Casteel used a 3-3-5 scheme while on the coaching staff. With the 3-4 scheme, the Mountaineers will be more of an attacking bunch defensively.
While the Mountaineers lost some key defensive players, returning players like Darwin Cook, Will Clark and Josh Francis will be strong playmakers.
It will be interesting to follow how West Virginia makes the proper adjustments defensively. Will it be able to handle the switch from the 3-3-5 to the 3-4? Time will tell.
Air Raid Will Lead to Another Bowl Berth
With added pressure, will the Mountaineers be able to follow a 10-win season under Dana Holgorsen? The offensive mastermind knows what he is doing, so my answer would be yes.
Holgorsen's Air Raid-style offense is becoming more familiar to QB Geno Smith and his teammates. Smith was able to convert 66 percent of his passes last year. He had 4,300 yards with 31 touchdowns and only 7 interceptions.
In another year of reps and preparation, Smith and the offense will only improve. That's certainly a scary thought.
Guys like Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, Ivan McCartney and J.D. Woods will all be back. Freshman receiver Jordan Thompson should be one to keep an eye on as well.
This offense will lead the Mountaineers to another bowl appearance.