West Virginia was ready for a shot at back to back 10 win seasons in 2017 as the Mountaineers had one of the most dynamic offenses in the country led by quarterback Will Grier. Unfortunately, Grier got hurt against Texas and the Mountaineers went on to lose their final 3 games to finish the season 7-6 (6-7 against the number). The good news for the Mountaineers is that Grier decided to return for his senior season and thank goodness for that. West Virginia averaged 39 points per game with Grier and under 20 points per game without him.
Head coach Dana Holgorsen and West Virginia will be looking to make a bowl for a 5th straight year, but that shouldn’t be too much of an issue as they have one of the best quarterbacks in the country and oddsmakers have set their season win total at 7.5 wins at BetOnline (-105/-115) and BetDSI (-140/110). You can also find their win total at 7.0 wins at 5Dimes (-145/125). Keep in mind that these win totals do not include bowl games or the conference championship game. With the skills and weapons Grier has, the Mountaineers will have the sights set on winning the BigXII and they have the 4th best odds in the conference to win the conference at +700 and they are 85-1 to win the national title (future odds found at 5Dimes).
The Mountaineers only return 12 starters from last season, but 7 of those are from the offense. Besides Grier returning, they have their leading receiver back and 4 of the top 5 receivers back from 2017. They do lose their leading rusher and a 1,000-yard receiver though. The defense only returns 5 starters, but strangely that is an improvement from a year ago as they only returned 3 starters for the 2017 season.
|Date||Opponent||BangTheBook Line||Expected Wins|
|9/15||@ NC State||-3||0.57|
|9/29||@ Texas Tech||-7||0.70|
|10/13||@ Iowa State||-2.5||0.54|
|11/17||@ Oklahoma St||-0.5||0.50|
Total Expected Wins: 8.07
West Virginia likes to go fast and they averaged 22.44 seconds per play last season which was the 12 fastest in the country and with the coaching staff intact, you can expect the same for 2018. We know Grier will be running the show but he won’t be alone. Despite losing Justin Crawford, who rushed for over 1,000-yards last season, the backfield has depth with McKoy and Pettway back, who were 2nd and 3rd respectively in rushing last season. But the name to look out for is redshirt freshman Alec Sinkfield who is an explosive back. Behind a veteran offensive line and Will Grier’s running ability, there is little reason to suggest that this group can’t duplicate last year’s success on the ground.
Last season, the Mountaineers almost had 3 receivers with 1,000-yard seasons. David Sills fell just 20 yards short of the 4-digit mark and probably would have made it if Grier stayed healthy. He still had a solid season and even led the team with 18 touchdowns on the year. Gary Jennings led the team with 97 receptions and 1096 yards and is back for his senior year. Ka’Raun White and his 1,004 yards are gone but David Sill and others will be ready to replace the production as this will be one of the better receiving corps in the country to go along with one of the best quarterbacks in the country.
West Virginia’s game plan is simple. Score fast, score often and win games with their offense. After only returning 3 starters for 2017, the Mountaineers allowed 31.5 points per game and 446 yards per game and relied on their offense to carry them. This year they get 5 starters back and the numbers should improve.
Despite losing 3 starters on the defensive line, this unit should be improved with the addition of a couple of transfers and Ezekiel Rose (last season’s leading sack man) returning for his senior season. Although it won’t take much for the defensive line to improve after allowing 204 rushing yards per game which was the worst in the conference in 2017… by a lot. If the offense is rolling, the defense just needs to be “not awful” for this team to get their wins.
West Virginia has 3 winnable games to start the season with a rebuilding Tennessee, a cupcake Youngstown State and a road game to NC State (who only return 9 total players) before getting into the Big XII schedule. They do get 5 home conference games and avoid any back-to-back road games, but they end the season against the likely 4 best teams in the conference, excluding themselves, and play Oklahoma on short rest to finish the regular season but I’m sure Morgantown will be rocking on that Friday night.
Win Total Pick: Over 7.0 (5Dimes)
Let’s crank up John Denver and burn some couches as we watch West Virginia rack up the wins! The Bang the Book power ratings have the Mountaineers as favorites in 10 games and their expected win total is 8.07 win, giving some value on the over. I will lay the extra juice with 5Dimes because if this team stays healthy, I think the absolute floor for this team is 7 wins. The offense will be one of the most exciting to watch in the country and the defense should improve from last year. Don’t be too shocked to see West Virginia in the hunt for a spot in the Big XII title game come November.
-END OF 2018 PREVIEW-
In his sixth year as the West Virginia Mountaineers’ head coach, Dana Holgorsen tied his best record with the team so far (10-3 overall, 7-2 in the conference), finishing the season ranked tied 2nd. Team has accepted the invitation for the 2016’s Russell Athletic Bowl where they were defeated by University of Miami, 31:14.
Obviously, last season’s ending was a bit disappointing and we’ll see how it will transfer to the team’s overall performances this year, having in mind that several impactful players are no longer eligible for the college football appearances. This might be a crossroad season in front of the Mountaineers.
WEST VIRGINIA UNIVERSITY MOUNTAINEERS
- Virginia Tech Hokies (Sep. 2)
- East Carolina Pirates (Sep. 9)
- Delaware State Hornets (Sep.16)
- at Kansas Jayhawks (Sep. 23)
- OFF (Sep. 28)
- at TCU Horned Frogs (Oct. 7)
- Texas Tech Red Raiders (Oct. 14)
- at Baylor Bears (Oct. 21)
- Oklahoma State Cowboys (Oct. 28)
- Iowa State Cyclones (Nov. 4)
- at Kansas State Wildcats (Nov. 11)
- Texas Longhorns (Nov. 18)
- at Oklahoma Sooners (Nov. 25)
According to 5dimes Sportsbook Odds for 2017 Season Win Totals: 7; Over -115; Under -105;
West Virginia Mountaineers Offense
The Mountaineers ranked 17th in the total offense segment last year as they averaged 485.6 yards per game and 6.42 yards per play (5th in the conference). Passing offense was solid, averaging 257.2 yards per game (42nd nationally and 8th in the Big 12). Senior QB Skyler Howard recorded 3328 total yards along with 26 TDs and 10 INTs.
During this offseason he was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Seattle Seahawks. It’s unclear who will start this season but biggest chance for the job has Chris Chugunov who is entering his sophomore year for the Mountaineers. Top receiver last season was Daikiel Shorts (894 yards, 5 TDs) but he also switched his Mountaineers’ jersey for the one of Buffalo Bills.
Running game was very good as they ranked 25th nationally and 4th in the conference with 228.4 yards per game and 5.17 yards per rush. Top rushers were Justin Crawford who had 1184 yards and Rushel Shell who recorded 514 yards rushing while QB Skyler Howard recorded 463 rushing yards and team-high 10 rushing TDs. Shell signed with the Pittsburgh Steelers but Crawford will stay in college for one more year.
West Virginia Mountaineers Defense
The 2016 season was definitely unsuccessful season for the Mountaineers when it comes to the defensive end of the game. Team ranked 74th nationally in total yards allowed per game (425.9), allowing 5.56 yards per game in average. They averaged 257.7 yards allowed passing and 168.2 rushing yards allowed in 13 matchups. Linebackers Justin Arndt and Al-Rasheed Benton led the team in total tackles with 84 and 80 but Justin Arndt is not in the team anymore as he graduated.
Team’s best DB Rasul Douglas who posted 8 INTs and 70 total tackles last year is also no longer with the team as he got picked in the third round of this year’s NFL Draft by Philadelphia Eagles. Defense will overall need some new blood and couple of young talented prospects like Adam Shuler II and Reese Donahue are already knocking on the door.
On the special teams, the Mountaineers averaged 21.16 yards per kickoff return with (57th nationally) and very poor 1.86 yards per punt return (9th in Big 12 and 124th nationally). Their kickoff return defense was also one of the worst in the NCAA (103rd) with 22.96 yards per kickoff allowed. Punt return defense was on the other side solid as they averaged 6.00 yards per punt allowed, ranking 41st nationally.
Their top kick returner Shelton Gibson (21.8 yards per kickoff return) went in the fifth round of 2017’s NFL Draft to the Eagles but WR Gary Jennings who is entering his junior year for the team can certainly uphold the returning assignments.
The way that Dana Holgorsen was appointed as the Mountaineers head coach was pretty bizarre. All that fuss with departure of Bill Stewart and the role that athletic director Oliver Luck played was definitely awkward and it didn’t help the team in any way. Nevertheless, last season which Mountaineers ended ranking second in the Big 12 showed that Holgorsen has the juice and ability to lead the team in an ordinarily fashion but they still lost the 2016’s Russell Athletic Bowl game. This next season will definitely prove if last season’s record was just a fluke or the sign that the team is going in the right direction.
Team’s departures and recruits
- Rasul Douglas, senior DB, declared for the 2017 NFL Draft and was picked by Philadelphia Eagles in the third round as 99th overall pick.
- Shelton Gibson, junior WR, declared for the 2017 NFL Draft and was picked by Philadelphia Eagles in the fifth round as 166th overall pick.
- Tyler Orlosky, senior C, declared for the 2017 NFL Draft and was signed as an undrafted free agent by Philadelphia Eagles.
- Noble Nwachukwu, senior DE, declared for the 2017 NFL Draft and was signed as an undrafted free agent by San Francisco 49ers.
5, Adam Pankley, senior OT, declared for the 2017 NFL Draft and was signed as an undrafted free agent by Green Bay Packers.
- Rushel Shell, senior RB, declared for the 2017 NFL Draft and was signed as an undrafted free agent by Pittsburgh Steelers.
- Skyler Howard, senior QB, declared for the 2017 NFL Draft and was signed as an undrafted free agent by Seattle Seahawks.
- Christian Brown, senior DT, declared for the 2017 NFL Draft and was signed as an undrafted free agent by Pittsburgh Steelerss.
- Daikiel Shorts, senior WR, declared for the 2017 NFL Draft and was signed as an undrafted free agent by Buffalo Bills.
- Darrien Howard, senior DT, declared for the 2017 NFL Draft and was signed as an undrafted free agent by Arizona Cardinals.
- Maurice Fleming, senior CB, declared for the 2017 NFL Draft and was signed as an undrafted free agent by Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
- Jeremy Tyler, senior S, declared for the 2017 NFL Draft and was signed as an undrafted free agent by Buffalo Bills.
- Sylvester Townes, senior OL, graduated.
- Jarrod Harper, senior SAF, graduated.
- Justin Arndt, senior LB, graduated.
There were 21 enrolled players and 2 players who were signed after the letter of intent.
- Derrek Pitts, ATH, South Charleston, Charlestown, WV;
- Kelby Wickline, OT, Jones County J.C., Ellisville, MS;
- Tevin Bush, APB, Landry-Walker, New Orleans, LA;
- Reggie Roberson, WR, Horn, Mesquite, TX;
- Kenny Robinson, ATH, University Prep, Pittsburgh, PA;
- Maverick Wolfley, FB, Morgantown, Morgantown, WV;
- David Sills, WR, El Camino College, Torrance, CA;
- Quondarius Qualls, OLB, Northwest Mississippi C.C., Senatobia, MS;
- Lamonte McDougle, DT, Deerfield Beach, Deerfield Beach, FL;
- Eugene Brown, S, Stephenson, Stone Mountain, GA;
- Dominique Maiden, WR, Riverside C.C., Riverside, CA;
- Alec Sinkfield, RB, American Heritage B/D, Delray Beach, FL;
- Hakeem Bailey, S, Iowa Western C.C., Council Bluffs, IA;
- Exree Loe, CB, Greater Johnstown, Johnstown, PA;
- Jalen Harvey, DT, Northwest Mississippi C.C., Senatobia, MS;
- Tyler Thurmond, OT, Buford, Buford, GA;
- Collin Smith, ATH, Ligonier Valley, Ligonier, PA;
- Ricky Johns, S, North Penn, Lansdale, PA;
- Darius Stills, DT, Fairmont, Fairmont, WV;
- Fontez Davis, CB, Butler C.C., El Dorado, KS;
- Ezekiel Rose, WDE, East Mississippi C.C., Scooba, MS;
Signed Letter of intent:
- Isaiah Hardy, OT, Lackawanna C.C., Scranton, PA;
- David Israel, Butler C.C., El Dorado, KS;
Total wins predictions
By my opinion, the bar for total wins odds in this case is placed way too high and I think that placing under 7 wins here presents a big mismatch. Reason for this claim is the fact that at least 12 impactful players left WVU and signed for the teams in the NFL meaning that their current roster contains a large number of young and inexperienced players. Also, I was never sold on Dana Holgorsen’s ability to lead the team to the conference title, let alone further.
Total wins prediction: 7, Under -105.