West Virginia in 2009 faces an interesting season. The Mountaineers could go 6-7 or finish in the Top Five or anywhere in between and I would not be surprised.
Others seem to agree. Some magazines are looking for West Virginia to finish first in the Big East (Lindy’s), second (USA Today and Athlon) and fourth (Phil Steele).
The defense is experienced but the offensive line is not—an enormous three-quarter ton question mark. As well, I don’t have any problems concerning quarterback Jarrett Brown and running back Noel Devine, but they both need space and health. If the O-line can’t become a fighting unit in time, then there’s no time left for you.
I can’t believe I just quoted the ‘70s band Guess Who.
True conversation with my father in 1970:
Dad: Who are you listening to?
Tim: Guess Who.
Dad: (long pause) Well, hell, son, how would I know?
Lesson: when you’re in the Big East, you have to have a sense of humor.
First, the wins:
Liberty (from Lynchburg VA) in Morgantown, Saturday, Sept. 5: In 2007 and 2008, the Flames could have pulled an Appalachian State right here in Appalachia. With only seven returning starters total, there’s little hope for the late Jerry Falwell’s church school.
East Carolina in Morgantown, Saturday, Sept. 12: Quarterback Patrick Pinkney is back, along with eight starters on defense. Thinking of the waxing WVU suffered last year in Greenville, I don’t care about youth in the offensive line, paybacks are a bit—well, everybody knows what paybacks are.
Colorado in Morgantown, Thursday night, Oct. 1: Ditto to that paybacks thing. Good news: the Buffs’ defense has a new line, making it a battle of youth and inexperience. Bad news: Colorado comes from the extremely tough Big 12 and thinks nothing of facing big-time schools on the road. More good news: that doesn’t matter.
Syracuse in the Carrier Dome, Saturday, Oct. 10: The Orange will be toughened up—or beaten up—after opening with Minnesota, Penn State, Northwestern, and South Florida in four of their first five games. However, when the highlight of a Syracuse game is the punter with the 43.9 yard average, well…
Connecticut in Morgantown, Saturday, Oct. 24: The Huskies will display a new hurry-up offense that the West Virginia defense will readily snuff out. The Connecticut defense won’t help things, either. The Mountaineers have gonged UConn for a total of 106 points the past two seasons. Ouch!
Louisville in Morgantown, Saturday, Nov. 7: The once-and-recently-proud Cardinal program has its fans clamoring for a head coach change. If last year’s staff firings don’t help, and the defense doesn’t jell, Louisville could be absolutely disheartened by the time they make the early November trip.
Now, the toss-ups:
Auburn at Jordan-Hare, Saturday, Sept. 19: The Tigers also have a new offensive line which could hinder their quest for more consistent output from the quarterback. However, it will be a hot, muggy night on the southern plains. Auburn is conditioned for that, as well as being conditioned for taking on national championship quality teams. This game is going to be tough for both schools. The outcome will be crucial. Win or lose, it will expose each team’s potential, good or bad, telling the tale for the Tigers and the Mountaineers for the remainder of the season.
Marshall in Morgantown, Saturday, Oct. 17: I’ve called this game between the two state FBS schools a toss-up since its re-emergence in 2006. Man, have I been wrong! However, this year, eight starters return to The Herd’s defense with the front four intact, including Albert McClennan. Not good. Two of three linebackers are back, as well as the two corners. Doubly not good. Also, the head man Mark Snyder has his job on the line. He’s a players’ favorite. No better way to save him than to beat West Virginia in its own backyard. I see the Mountaineers with the ball driving late against that D for the win.
South Florida at Raymond James, Friday, Oct. 30: Two words: George Selvie. Mr. Selvie also has two other D-linemen brethren returning. And, at quarterback is senior Matt Groethe, the south’s answer to Pat White. He can run well and pass even better and has led the Bulls to victories over West Virginia two out of three years. Tampa is Heartbreak City to the Mountaineers, with the 2007 loss revealing to others how to beat the WVU spread. It’s not a national ranking year for South Florida, but they have enough horses to make West Virginia’s life miserable.
Cincinnati at Nippert, Friday, Nov. 13: It won’t be “Freaky Friday” for the Bearcats, but it will for the Mountaineers. West Virginia will have a difficult time of it because Cincinnati has cracked the WVU code in a way that would make Dan Brown proud. A big Cincy comeback fell short during the Fiesta Bowl year, but they got the Mountaineers back with an overtime road win to take the Big East. The offense, led by quarterback Tony Pike, is fine, but the defense will be challenged. However, the ‘Cats always bring it. Look for the new darling of the conference to try their best to show last season was no fluke.
Pittsburgh in Morgantown, Friday, Nov. 27: It’s the Backyard Brawl. After 2007’s shocker, everyone knows that anything can happen in this rivalry. Dave Wannstedt currently has the advantage. The Panther players have West Virginia’s number. Three of four defensive linemen are back along with the entire defensive backfield. Nothing much else to say, except (and to borrow from Rich Rod) pull the straps on tighter.
Rutgers at Rutgers Stadium, Saturday, Dec. 5: If all the toss-ups and the stars align in the Mountaineers’ way, this game could be for the Big East title and an automatic inclusion in a BCS bowl. If my guess is right, it’ll be big for the Scarlet Knights, too. Rutgers has everything under control. All Greg Schiano needs is a good replacement for now-alumnus quarterback Mike Teel. The rabid fans will fill the additional seats, cluing West Virginia in on how it must feel to ride into Mountaineer Field. And, it may work out in WVU’s favor.
Even after completing this piece, I’m reaffirming that West Virginia could land anywhere between 6-7 and a Top Five berth. So, here’s my best guess, with “guess” being the operative word: The Mountaineers lose to Cincinnati, but win (or I should say survive) the Big East and the automatic bid since the league, including Cincinnati, will be all knotted up by everyone else.