West Virginia Football: 5 Most Highly Anticipated Games Next Year

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistMay 24, 2012

West Virginia Football: 5 Most Highly Anticipated Games Next Year

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    With the West Virginia Mountaineers moving to the Big 12, there are plenty of new faces on the schedule that are sure to be highly-anticipated matchups.

    West Virginia enjoyed a successful 2011 season which was capped off by a 70-33 drubbing of the Clemson Tigers in the Orange Bowl. Navigating its suddenly tougher schedule to another BCS bowl appearance will be tough.

    Winning these five highly-anticipated games next season will be necessary if the Mountaineers want to repeat their success from yesteryear.

Vs. Maryland

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    The Mountaineers' non-conference slate is highlighted by a home game against an ACC foe, the Maryland Terrapins.

    The Terps are coming off of a pitiful 2-10 season but started off the year as a scrappy team last season and even gave West Virginia a run for its money. The Terps fell to the Mountaineers in College Park 37-31 in a game that came right down to the wire.

    The Terps should definitely be improved from last season and will be looking to avenge its hard-fought loss. Though the Mountaineers should be better than the Terps, it wouldn't be surprising if this is a good game.

At Texas

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    Texas has been down in the last few seasons—at least in terms of the success Texas is used to. However, Texas still remain one of the biggest names in college football.

    The Longhorns should continue to improve in 2012 and have multiple NFL caliber players on the defensive side of the ball.

    Watching potential first round picks Jackson Jeffcoat and Alex Okafor try to disrupt Geno Smith and the Mountaineers' spread attack will be one of the premier offense vs. defense matchups in the nation and is can't-miss football. This is the first game of the season that will really show how the Mountaineers fit into the Big 12 landscape.


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    The West Virginia Mountaineers won't be the only team making their Big 12 debut in 2012—the TCU Horned Frogs will also be making the transition as they make their way from the non-BCS Mountain West.

    West Virginia and TCU have both earned their way into the conference but have been a stark contrast to one another stylistically.

    TCU has always prided itself on a great defense and it wasn't until a few years ago that the offense really caught up. West Virginia has always had an explosive offense and has only become more dynamic since the hiring of head coach Dana Holgorsen.

    Offensively, TCU loves to establish the run and will look to dominate on the ground to set up the passing game. West Virginia loves to throw the ball all over the field while using the run to keep the defense off balance.

    This battle for newcomer supremacy should be a great clash of styles and a highly-anticipated matchup.

At Oklahoma State

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    When the West Virginia Mountaineers travel to Stillwater to take on the Oklahoma State Cowboys, head coach Dana Holgorsen will be in familiar territory.

    The second-year head coach was hired by West Virginia after one year as the Oklahoma State offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. With Mike Gundy still at the helm for the Cowboys, their offense has remained virtually the same.

    With both teams running their wide-open air raid attacks, the over/under for this game could resemble a basketball over/under. This should be one of the highest scoring games of the season, and it'll be interesting to see which team can execute their offense best.

Vs Oklahoma

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    Everybody loves a quarterback showdown. Watching two elite quarterbacks try to lead their team to victory while continually one-upping their signal-calling counterpart is always entertaining.

    When the Geno Smith's West Virginia Mountaineers and Landry Jones' Oklahoma Sooners collide, not only will two of the Big 12's most dangerous teams collide, but also two of the conference's most accomplished quarterbacks will be dueling it out.

    Smith's numbers in the pass-heavy Mountaineer offense were simply jaw-dropping last season. The junior quarterback threw for over 4,000 yards and 31 touchdowns. His Oklahoma counterpart is expected to be a first round draft choice in next year's NFL draft and also threw for over 4,000 yards last season and had 29 touchdowns.

    A highly-anticipated showdown between these two quarterbacks could define the Mountaineers' season.