In their first full football season as members of the Big 12, the West Virginia Mountaineers have some résumé building to do before they can call themselves part of the elite of this historically powerful league.
Joining a conference with 10 Heisman Trophy winners after last year’s win by former Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III, West Virginia knows the shift from the weaker Big East football schedule may have some bumps in the road.
Luckily for them, the Mountaineers have their best chance at a championship and winning a Heisman Trophy since Pat White and Steve Slaton manned the backfield in 2007. That West Virginia team was explosive, running the Rich Rodriguez spread offense effectively. White and Slaton combined for 2,386 yards on the ground and the team finished sixth in the polls.
With current head coach Dana Holgorsen still in charge after a 10-3 record a year ago and a 70-33 stomping of Clemson in the BCS Orange Bowl, West Virginia is looking for its best finish since 2007.
Strong defensive play, including a 99-yard fumble return to close out the first half, helped pave the way for the Mountaineers. It was their quarterback, however, who stole the show in that game, and really the whole season, for West Virginia.
Senior Geno Smith broke Tom Brady’s 11-year-old record for passing yards in the Orange Bowl with 401 yards through the air. He added six touchdown passes, along with one on the ground.
Smith, one of the regional covers of this year's Sports Illustrated College Football Preview, according to the wvusports.com, will look to carry his team as he did a year ago. He's in his third year as the West Virginia starter.
After breaking Marc Bulger's school record for passing yards in 2011, Smith will look to make school history again in 2012. He hopes to carry preseason No. 11 ranked West Virginia in their first year in the Big 12 to the top of the college football world.
To do that, he will need a lot to go well during one of the toughest schedules in the NCAA. West Virginia has never won a national championship or finished higher than fifth in the end-of-year rankings, but they have also never had a quarterback quite like Smith.
Playing for a program deserving of praise and national recognition, a Heisman Trophy campaign from Smith would be enormous for a historic West Virginia program.