After the departures of some of the best players in West Virginia football history, it is now time to look ahead and make some game-by-game predictions for the Mountaineers' 2013 schedule.
Yes, it's still winter and there are many variables still in play.
However, we're still going to take a look at what the 2013 slate might hold.
Can the Mountaineers improve on their 2012 finish in their second year in the Big 12 Conference?
Will head coach Dana Holgorsen pick up victories against his former teams?
Let's find out:
Finally, after months of preparation and anticipation, the Ford Childress era will begin in Morgantown. Or perhaps it will be the Paul Millard or Chavas Rawlins era—it's anyone's guess at this point.
Either way, whichever signal-caller takes over will have some wide shoes to full. Luckily, he'll have some brilliant offensive guidance and a brilliantly-scheduled cupcake opener to help him gain some traction.
William & Mary won only two games in FCS (Division I-AA) play last season—against Georgia State (WVU's Week 3 opponent) and Penn.
If anything at all goes awry in this game, WVU is in for a very long season.
The Tribe and the Mountaineers had two common opponents last season, Maryland and James Madison. West Virginia won both, while William & Mary lost both.
For what it's worth, the Tribe nearly knocked off Maryland in last year's season opener, but fell after a fourth quarter touchdown from UMD. They also took JMU into overtime, but again lost.
Regardless, West Virginia should be able to take care of business no matter who is at quarterback. With arguably the toughest game on the schedule just one week away, the Mountaineers need to use this game to sharpen up as much as possible.
Prediction: WVU 56, W&M 7
Last year's meeting between West Virginia and Oklahoma ended up as one of the best games of the entire Big 12 Conference regular season.
This time, the two will meet in just the second week of the season and both will be working to replace some of the best players from their 2012 squads.
OU will be without quarterback Landry Jones, who amassed more than 16,000 yards through the air during his career in Norman to go with 123 touchdowns. Both Jones and WVU's Geno Smith finished their careers as the all-time leaders in passing at their respective schools.
On the outside, the Sooners must replace their top two receivers, Kenny Stills and Justin Brown.
Blake Bell served primarily as a running quarterback for OU, only throwing on occasion. So it remains to be seen just how effective he will be in replacing Jones in the passing game.
Fortunately, he'll have his two leading rushers back in Damien Williams and Brennan Clay. He'll also have a few weapons to throw to out wide in Jalen Saunders, Sterling Shepard and Trey Metoyer—all of whom are poised to have a breakout 2013 season.
OU will also be replacing a lot on defense. Without Tony Jefferson, Demontre Hurst and Javon Harris, Aaron Colvin must step up to lead a successful secondary.
Despite the many losses, the Sooners should have plenty of talent waiting to take on larger roles including Colvin and linebacker Corey Nelson.
Through all of the changes both sides will go through this offseason, it's tough to predict the complexion of this game. The Mountaineers will need to slow the Oklahoma run game first and foremost.
However, with limited film to study and time for this young WVU group to form before heading to Norman in Week 2, Oklahoma should be able to take care of business.
Prediction: OU 38, WVU 28
Much like the contest with William & Mary in Week 1, West Virginia should have no problem at all with Georgia State in Week 3.
The Panthers were 1-10 in FCS play last season and will be making their FBS debut in 2013.
The Mountaineers, coming off a disappointing loss to Oklahoma, will have great a opportunity to polish their game and improve for the coming Big 12 season.
A brand new program that was only conceived in 2010, GSU won't be eligible to participate in the postseason until 2014.
Looking ahead to the Panthers' schedule, they'll have two games against premier programs to look forward to: this meeting with WVU and a trip to Alabama in early October.
There's no doubt this team will come out motivated in each of those two games. Still, West Virginia shouldn't have much problem in this contest.
And as with the William & Mary game, if WVU has any issues here, that will be a terrible sign for the coming weeks.
Prediction: WVU 59, GSU 10
West Virginia's only true rivalry game of the season is sure to be an interesting one.
The Mountaineers will meet up with Maryland at M&T Bank Stadium, home of the new Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens.
Last year, UMD played WVU tough. The Terps came out as the more motivated team against a Mountaineer squad that appeared to be looking forward to the coming Big 12 slate.
This time around, now that the luster of the Big 12 move has warn off, WVU should be more focused on the task at hand.
The Terps—who finished 4-8 in 2012—are a beatable opponent for the Mountaineers.
C.J. Brown should be back under center for Maryland and will present more of a challenge than Perry Hills did last year.
UMD plays solid team defense, so it won't be an easy day for the young West Virginia offense.
Regardless, I like WVU's chances in a relatively low-scoring affair.
Prediction: WVU 28, UMD 21
Last season, WVU had a huge day offensively against Oklahoma State in Stillwater.
The Mountaineers also did a solid job of corralling the Big 12's top rusher in Joseph Randle. This time around, they won't have to deal with Randle, but will still face a tough OSU offense.
That same offense busted West Virginia for 55 points in 2012 to stymie a gold and blue comeback try.
Again, Dana Holgorsen will be looking for his first win against his former team, which will make this a huge game for WVU.
However, he'll fall short of that. Again.
OSU returns a lot of offensive firepower, including one of the Big 12's best receivers in Josh Stewart, running back Jeremy Smith and three quarterbacks with starting experience, provided none of them decide to transfer.
The Cowboys are on the short list of conference title favorites going into the season, and they will be a very tough out for WVU—even in Morgantown.
Prediction: OSU 48, WVU 31
Look for this contest between WVU and Baylor to be decided in different fashion than last year's thrilling shootout.
Both teams with be without senior quarterbacks and All-American receivers.
However, that hasn't stopped the Bears before, as shown by Nick Florence's shining replacement of Robert Griffin III last season.
Additionally, Baylor will boast a scary ground game led by Lache Seastrunk, who emerged as one of the Big 12's best runners in 2012.
Finally, the Bears will be reloading with one of the conference's best recruiting classes.
In Waco, behind Seastrunk and a still talented receiving corps, Baylor wins.
Prediction: Baylor 41, WVU 35
After three losses in the conference to start the season, WVU will need to gain some serious traction.
With nothing to lose and everything to gain, the Mountaineers will be able to exact some revenge at home from last season's disappointing loss to the Red Raiders.
An improved West Virginia defense will be better prepared to deal with the TTU offense, which will still be leaning on a new quarterback.
Offensively, WVU won't be caught off guard by the Texas Tech defensive scheme.
Holgorsen finally notches a win against his other former team and former protege Kliff Kingsbury.
Prediction: WVU 35, TTU 24
West Virginia was humiliated on a national stage against Kansas State last season.
Led by Heisman Trophy finalist Collin Klein, KSU ran all over the Mountaineers.
However, this year's KSU squad will look completely different without Klein and All-Big 12 linebacker Arthur Brown.
If WVU can stop running back John Hubert, it will be relatively smooth sailing.
The Mountaineers will still be in dire need of conference victories, and they'll pick up another one in Manhattan.
Prediction: WVU 31, KSU 24
All signs point to the return of Casey Pachall under center for TCU in 2013.
This is great news for what should be an improved Horned Frogs squad, but bad news for West Virginia.
The Mountaineers dropped a heartbreaker to TCU last season and will be out for some revenge. However, in Fort Worth, WVU will fall just short yet again.
The Big 12 was very evenly matched last season and will be even more so in 2013. This game will be another testament to that fact.
In the end, TCU will make one or two more plays than West Virginia to pick up the win.
Prediction: TCU 31, WVU 28
West Virginia has managed to dominate Texas in its first year in the Big 12. The Mountaineers have topped the Longhorns on almost every platform, including football.
This time around, WVU won't be so lucky.
UT may be the best team in the conference in 2013.
Youth has been the problem for the Longhorns in the past few seasons, but now experienced, they may be well on their way to the Big 12 crown by Nov. 9.
West Virginia won't be able to stand in their way, even in Morgantown. Texas rolls, despite a rowdy crowd at Milan Puskar Stadium.
Prediction: Texas 42, WVU 28
Kansas will be improved in Charlie Weis' second year in Lawrence.
KU brought in a huge group of JUCO prospects who will be able to contribute immediately.
However, WVU brought in some talented JUCO additions as well. In a battle of new-look teams, West Virginia picks up the victory.
Dreamius Smith, the one-time KU commit, has a big day on the ground for the Mountaineers, who reach bowl eligibility after a couple of tough losses.
Prediction: WVU 42, KU 21
Against ISU, West Virginia's seniors will play their final game in Morgantown.
And as WVU waves goodbye to Shaq Rowell, Will Clarke, Doug Rigg and others, it will do so with a victory.
The inspired defensive seniors come through with one of their best performances of the season against a sporadic Cyclone offense.
Senior lineman Pat Eger paves the way for a strong ground performance, as the Mountaineers match their regular-season record from 2012 and finish at 7-5.
Prediction: WVU 31, ISU 17
West Virginia's official schedule can be seen at WVUSports.com. Be sure to comment below with your thoughts and remind me just how wrong I was when my picks go awry.
|Aug. 31||William & Mary||Morgantown, W. Va.||W: 56-7|
|Sep. 7||Oklahoma||Norman, Okla.||L: 28-38|
|Sep. 14||Georgia State||Morgantown, W. Va.||W: 59-10|
|Sep. 21||Maryland||Baltimore, Md.||W: 28-21|
|Sep. 28||Oklahoma State||Morgantown, W. Va.||L: 31-48|
|Oct. 5||Baylor||Waco, Texas||L: 35-41|
|Oct. 19||Texas Tech||Morgantown, W.Va.||W: 35-24|
|Oct. 26||Kansas State||Manhattan, Kan.||W: 31-24|
|Nov. 2||TCU||Fort Worth, Texas||L: 28-31|
|Nov. 9||Texas||Morgantown, W. Va.||L: 28-42|
|Nov. 16||Kansas||Lawrence, Kan.||W: 42-21|
|Nov. 29||Iowa State||Morgantown, W.Va.||W: 31-17|
Regular Season Record: 7-5