West Virginia Football: Mountaineers Have a Lot to Prove in 2012

Erin Sorensen@erinsorensenContributor IAugust 7, 2012

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JANUARY 04:  (L-R) Head coach Dana Holgorsen, Tavon Austin #1 and Stedman Bailey #3 of the West Virginia Mountaineers wait in the tunnel prior to running onto the field to take on the Clemson Tigers during the Discover Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium on January 4, 2012 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

West Virginia sealed the 2011 season, its last in the Big East, with a 70-33 win over Clemson in the Orange Bowl. That win, along with talented players such as quarterback Geno Smith, have put the Mountaineers at the No. 11 spot in the USA Today Coaches Poll.

A ranking as high as that is an exciting one for WVU fans. However, there is a lot of unanswered questions for the Mountaineers, who have never faced five ranked opponents inside of league play during the regular season, according to the Charleston Daily Mail.

Head coach Dana Holgorsen seems ready for the challenge to meet the expectations placed on his team. As he told the Charleston Daily Mail, "The expectations are high, which we like, but we're not going to pay any attention to it."

Pay attention to it or not, there is no denying what West Virginia needs to do in 2012. The hype surrounding the Big 12 newcomers and their shining quarterback are great. The pressure will be there and it will be interesting to see how the Mountaineers handle it.

For West Virginia, the expectations are there, which come with a slew of statistics behind them, especially as the Charleston Daily Mail notes:

According to the Associated Press Top 25 polls, the Mountaineers have started a season in the top 20 a total of 10 times. Only twice have they finished higher than expected: in 1953, they jumped from a preseason ranking of 16 to finish No. 10; and in 1988's undefeated regular-season run, which also started at No. 16 but ended with a top 5 finish.

Expectations have always played out in an interesting way for the Mountaineers though. Their 2011 season was filled with highs and lows, going from a blowout loss to Syracuse to the huge win over Clemson. Regardless, West Virginia has a lot of momentum behind them going into the upcoming season. If that can translate on the field against a whole new group of opponents, it may not end up being so daunting of a task to make a run for the Big 12 title.

Regardless, being ranked No. 11 will be a lot to live up to for the Mountaineers. To end up higher than their preseason ranking will be a feat as previously noted.

Can Holgorsen lead his team to the level of excellence expected in the Big 12? The odds are against him, but never say never.