West Virginia's defense will face plenty of elite offensive playmakers in the Big 12 this season
West Virginia clearly has the offensive firepower it takes to win a Big 12 championship in 2012. However, the big question surrounding the Mountaineers this season is will their defense be able to hold up against the explosive offenses that they're set to face in their new conference?
New coordinator Joe DeForest has switched the defense's scheme from its traditional 3-3-5 base set to a new 3-4 front. Plus, there are some new starters at important positions.
Obviously, "new" is the key buzzword for the West Virginia defense this season.
There's a new coordinator, a new system, new starters and, most importantly, a whole new set of enemy playmakers that the team will have to figure out how to slow down.
The Big 12 is loaded with some tremendous offensive talent this year. West Virginia's defense is going to get tested by a dangerous offensive player basically every single week of the season from here on out.
Here's a look at the 10 opposing players who will likely cause the toughest matchup problems for the West Virginia defense in 2012.
John Hubert may have been overshadowed by Kansas State's breakout star quarterback Collin Klein last year, but he still managed to finish seventh in the Big 12 with 970 rushing yards in 2011.
Hubert will now be looking to step out of Klein's shadow this season and show the college football world that he's truly one of the best backs in the country.
The 5'7'', 185-pound junior is cut from the same mold as former Wildcat star Darren Sproles.
Like Sproles, Hubert possesses surprising power and strength for his small stature. He's the type of bowling ball-style runner who can definitely wear down a defense over the course of a game.
As a collective unit, Maryland's offense certainly doesn't look all that opposing. However, the Terrapins do have one dangerous weapon that they can rely on. Freshman WR Stefon Diggs has the type of speed and playmaking ability that can really threaten a secondary.
Diggs is a former highly touted five-star recruit who is already starting to make an instant impact for Maryland's offense this year.
Even though he's had to deal with inconsistent play at the quarterback position, Diggs has still caught six passes for 89 yards in the first two games.
If the 6'1'', 185-pound freshman can get on the same page with QB Perry Hills, the West Virginia secondary is going to have its hands full trying to slow him down on Sept. 22.
Since Texas Tech went just 5-7 last year, Red Raiders quarterback Seth Doege wasn't really talked about. However, Doege was actually one of the most productive passers in the country in 2011.
The 6'1'', 197-pound senior completed 68 percent of his passes for over 4,000 yards and threw 28 touchdowns last year.
Doege is off to a hot start this year. In the first two games of the season, he's completed 48 of his 66 pass attempts for 518 and hit six touchdown strikes.
Going on the road to square off with Doege and the Red Raiders on Oct. 13, a week after battling Texas, is going to be a true gut check for the West Virginia defense.
Now that record-setting receiver Ryan Broyles is in the NFL, Kenny Stills has been asked to step up and become Oklahoma's new No. 1 target in 2012.
Stills caught 61 passes in each of his first two seasons, totaling 13 touchdowns during that time.
He's already on pace to easily surpass that total this season.
The 6'1'', 190-pound junior has hauled 16 passes for 241 yards and two touchdowns in just two games.
While he may not be as efficient or as reliable as Broyles, Stills is the type of speedy and savvy pass-catcher who knows how to find holes in coverage and expose them.
Baylor's offense may have lost the best receiver in school history, Kendall Wright, who was the No. 20 overall pick of this year's NFL draft. But the Bears have brought back another potential star receiver who will catch the attention of pro scouts this year.
The team's new top target, Terrance Williams, looks like the type of receiver who could start for a few different NFL teams right now.
The 6'2'', 205-pound senior is a big, physical and athletic wideout who is capable of breaking a big play at any moment.
Williams' size-speed combination is going to be difficult for West Virginia cornerbacks Pat Miller and Brodrick Jenkins to handle.
This year, Texas has two standout running backs, Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron, who basically combine to form one truly dominant rushing force.
Brown and Bergeron have combined to carry the ball 42 times for 269 yards and four touchdowns in the Longhorns' first two games.
The two budding-star sophomore rushers are both big, powerful and physical downhill runners who are capable of beating a defense into submission.
West Virginia's defensive linemen and linebackers better have their chin straps buckled when they take on Texas down in Austin on Oct. 6.
Josh Boyce is one of the fastest and most athletic receivers in the country.
Boyce came into the 2012 season with a ton of momentum after a huge sophomore campaign in which he caught 61 passes for 998 yards and nine touchdowns.
The 6'0'', 203-pound junior now looks like he wants to make a name for himself in the Big 12 and challenge for the title of the best receiver in the conference.
The speedy deep threat is capable of consistently getting behind a secondary, which is something that West Virginia defensive coordinator Joe DeForest better be fully aware of when the Mountaineers take on the Horned Frogs on Nov. 3.
Now that QB Brandon Weeden and WR Justin Blackmon have both moved on to the NFL, RB Joseph Randle has become the focal point of Oklahoma State's offense this season.
Last year, Randle only carried the ball 208 times, but he still managed to rush for 1,216 yards and 24 touchdowns. He also showed off his versatility as a receiver, catching 43 passes for 266 yards and two scores.
The 6'1'', 200-pound junior is capable of beating a defense in a variety of different ways. He's going to be the one player that West Virginia has to contain when the Mountaineers meet with the Cowboys in Stillwater on Nov. 10.
Randle's one weakness is that he fumbles too much. West Virginia better do everything it can to strip the ball out of his hands and make him cough up a key turnover.
Landry Jones may have been criticized for his late-season meltdown last year, but looking back, Jones actually had a pretty solid season in 2011.
The 6'4'', 218-pound senior completed 63 percent of his passes for over 4,400 yards and 29 touchdowns. The problem was, he threw 15 interceptions and didn't exactly step up in big games.
Jones is the type of rhythm passer that can sit in a pocket and pick apart a secondary if he's not pressured.
That's why West Virginia has to come up with a variety of different looks and blitz packages in order to consistently get in the backfield and cause Jones to feel uneasy in the pocket.
West Virginia's game against Kansas State on Oct. 20 is far from a guaranteed win.
That's because the Wildcats have one of the best offensive playmakers in the country, QB Collin Klein, leading their offense.
Simply put, Klein is a beast, who is capable of carving up a defense with both his arm and his legs.
The 6'5'', 226-pound senior rushed for 1,141 yards and 27 touchdowns during his breakout season last year.
This year, he's already rushed for 125 yards and three touchdowns.
Klein is the type of dangerous and dynamic dual-threat quarterback who is almost impossible to prepare for. What makes him so good is his natural feel and instincts.
The big, athletic signal-caller knows how to create big explosive plays.
He's got the look of a true Heisman contender this year.