Is it football season yet? Nope. How about now? NO!!!
This is one of the many questions that Mountaineer faithful are asking amongst themselves as the 2008 football season draws near, along with, "How will our Mountaineers do without you know who?"
Well, lemme just go on ahead and say this...BETTER!!!
Now I'm not bashing Rich Rod, but from watching that Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma (Are you kidding me? 48-28 against the "best" team in the nation?), how can you think that West Virginia will be worse off?
That was then, and this is now. The Coach Stew Mountaineers look to show off what they got this season, and the fans are excited. The reason why the fans can't wait to see their Mountaineers is because of senior quarterback Patrick White.
"The Chief," as he is called, is without a shout of a doubt the most electrifying QB in the game today. With No. 5 you never know when a potential sack can turn into a touchdown. This guy is a winner and gets better each year.
With this year being his final season as a Mountaineer, look for White to post bigger and better numbers. The critics say that this guy cannot throw the ball, yet he completed 66.7 percent of his passes in 2007, which happens to be good for a "scrambler."
Also, look for White to push himself into the Heisman conversation. Outside of Tim Tebow, White has to be the best candidate. Just like any one of his out-of-nowhere runs for 50-plus, expect to be surprised by his passing this year.
Another reason why the Mountaineer fans are counting down the days until August 30 is because of sophomore RB Noel Devine. The little guy has drawn comparisons to Barry Sanders and strikes fear into the hearts of any opposing defense.
Look for Devine to post otherworldly numbers as his input will increase. Coach Stew and everyone else are expecting big things out of Noel this year. Watch out!
West Virginia also returns their whole offensive line, which consists of All-Americans Ryan Stancheck and Greg Isdaner. This group of offensive linemen is very talented and is probably one of the best O-lines in the nation, if not the best.
These were the men that were responsible for 1,000-yard performances from both Pat White and former Mountaineer, now Houston Texan, Steve Slaton. This group will continue to do work and open holes for Pat White, Noel Devine, and the other runners out of the backfield.
Speaking of other runners in the backfield, Mountaineer fans were elated when they found out about Hargrave RB Terence Kerns finally qualifying to play football this fall. It was a tough long struggle to get Kerns qualified, but now he is ready to get on the field.
Kerns is one of those backs with rare combination of size and speed. At 6'1", 225, and a *4.3* forty (nobody really knows how fast he is, but judging from his highlights, he can scoot for a big fella), he is a perfect compliment to Noel Devine. Mark Rodgers is another speed back that adds depth to the backfield.
The receivers are led by a great group of athletes in Dorrell Jalloh, Tito Gonzales, Jock Sanders, Brandon Hogan, and converted QB to receiver Bradley Starks. Starks emerged as the deep threat in spring practices and will be a sleeper this season. Look for him to have a breakout season along with TE Will Johnson.
The Mountaineer defense will hope to duplicate their performance from last year, ranking in the top 10 in total defense. This year’s defense won't have most of those players from 2007, but the players that are on the roster this year believe that they will do just as fine.
The coaches raved about the emergence of the linebackers during spring workouts. J.T. Thomas and Pat Lazear, to name a few, were the stars of the spring, flying to the ball and batting down passes. Senior linebackers Morty Ivy and Reed Williams lead the group and were the leading tacklers from last season.
The linebackers are the strongest part of this defense and hope to make the job easier on the defensive backs and lineman.
The schedule this year for the Mountaineers is a notch up from last year, including an enormous game against Auburn and a potential trap game against Colorado. From a distance, the schedule doesn't look that tough, but when you get closer, you realize that it is in fact a long and grueling road.
Let’s take a look at the teams that will face WVU this coming fall.
Villanova: Aug. 30 at WVU
Yes, the home opener is against a D-I AA team. I didn’t even know Villanova had a football team, but seriously, you can’t overlook any team. The Wildcats finished off their season at 7-4, and while they will be trying to do their best impersonation of those other Mountaineers (how ironic would this be?), WVU will try not to impersonate Michigan. If only Scottie Reynolds could play football.
Outcome: WVU 8000, Villanova 7
East Carolina: Sep. 6 at ECU
The Pirates of Carolina look to get revenge after losing to the Mountaineers last year 48-17. They also lost Chris “This is what 4.24 speed looks like” Johnson, their star running back from last year. But the Pirates are moving on. 15 starters return to the lineup, including WR Jamar Bryant, who caught 48 catches for 704 yards.
The Mountaineer defense was the story of last year's game, and I expect them to dominate again.
Outcome: WVU 42, ECU 14
Colorado: Sep. 18 at Colorado
The Buffalos will get a chance to establish themselves as a legit force with a win over WVU. The offense for Colorado seems to be solid with QB Cody Hawkins and WR Scotty McKnight. Coach Dan Hawkins struck gold with the addition of highly touted high school RB Darrell Scott, who in my opinion will have the biggest impact as a freshman.
The Colorado defense starts with the two outstanding linemen in George Hypolite and Brandon Nicolas. Seven of the top ten tacklers return as well, which should make this defense solid. However, this team seems to be in that slowly improving stage.
Outcome: WVU 31, Colorado 17
Marshall: Sep. 27 at WVU
Marshall’s season last year was a disaster, but they finished on somewhat of a high note, winning three out of their last five games. They did beat an impressive East Carolina team, destroying their championship hopes.
The Thundering Herd were smashed by WVU 48-23 last season. I expect a similar score this year.
Outcome: WVU 51, Marshall 10
Rutgers: Oct. 4 at WVU
The Scarlet Knights of Rutgers are coming off an 8-5 season looking to do big things in the Big East this year. However, they have some serious rebuilding to do after losing Ray Rice on offense and Eric Foster on defense.
Will the combination of Mike Teel (who is one of the best passing QBs in the Big East), Tiquan Underwood, and Kenny Britt be enough to keep up with the Mountaineers? I don’t think so.
Outcome: WVU 38, Rutgers 14
Syracuse: Oct. 11 at WVU
Syracuse has a long way to go. They went 2-10 last year, and they lost their *student* athlete star receiver Mike Williams, while the other receiver Taj Smith went to the NFL early. One of those 10 losses came in the form of a 55-14 juicing by WVU. Who’s thirsty?
Outcome: WVU 62, Syracuse 10
Auburn: Oct. 23 at WVU
This is the most intriguing match on the schedule for WVU. Auburn comes into Morgantown with high hopes. This game is important for both teams, as it should ultimately be the deciding factor for future endeavors.
Auburn has talent on both sides of the ball. Offensively they look to install the spread into their game plan. Who will be the QB, Kodi Burns or Chris Todd? Their running game looks impressive with Ben Tate, Brad Lester, and Tristan Davis, which is a nice combination of power and speed.
Defensively, this group of players will give WVU some problems because they have speed. Not only that, the guy calling the defensive plays is the same guy that shut down WVU in the Backyard Brawl. Paul Rhoads has to be giddy with the talent he has this year.
This game should be a tough one for WVU.
Outcome: WVU 21, Auburn 18
Connecticut: Nov. 1 at UConn
The Huskies were pretty solid last year, sharing the Big East title with WVU. UConn is probably still hurting from that 66-21 dismantling by WVU, but it’s a new year.
Believe it or not, UConn’s strength is their defense, as they only gave up 20 or more points in two other contests. The offense will feature RBs Andre Dixon and Donald Brown, who both ran for 800-plus yards.
WVU will again be the victor in this game.
Outcome: WVU 55, UConn 20
Cincinnati: Nov. 8 at WVU
The Bearcats were impressive last year, having their first 10-win season since 1951. Ben Mauk won’t be with UC this year, so they have to search for a new QB. Dustin Grutza looks to be the starter and had a good game against Marshall last year, throwing for 142 yards and 2 TDs.
The defense looks to be good with All-Americans DT Terrill Boyd and corner Mike Mickens. DeAngelo Smith, the other corner, led the NCAA in INTs with eight.
The Mountaineers barely got by the Bearcats last year, winning 28-23. This time it won’t be so close.
Outcome: WVU 31, Cincinnati 14
Louisville: Nov. 22 at Louisville
The Cardinals went 6-6 last season and don’t have Brian Brohm anymore, but Hunter Cantwell seems like a good choice for successor. That’s pretty much everything that the Cards have to hope for. They have a lot of voids to fill everywhere. WVU should win this one with ease.
Outcome: WVU 42, Louisville 17
Pitt: Nov. 28 at Pitt
Oh yes, the Backyard Brawl once again. LeSean McCoy vs. Noel Devine. This should be a good one. Pitt has to be excited about the way they finished the season.
13-9 is something that WVU fans are still coping with. The Mountaineers will be looking for revenge after what Pitt did to them. Look for WVU to receive a big dosage of LeSean McCoy once again.
Outcome: WVU 28, Pitt 20
USF: Dec. 6 at WVU
The Last game of the season pits WVU against USF. This game should be another tough one, as USF is another one of those underrated Big East teams. They were once rated as high as second in the BCS last year. Matt Grothe looks to have a big year, and on defense, the Bulls have probably the best pass rusher in the nation in George Selvie.
Look for USF to give WVU some trouble, but Pat White will put this team on his back (that's if he stays in the game).
Outcome: WVU 24, USF 14
WVU overall record: 12-0
Yes, that is right: WVU will go undefeated—do you know why? Because 5+7 equals 12 and 0. It’s the perfect equation to a perfect season. WVU will surprise all the critics and naysayers this year.