2012 Record: 7-6 (4-5 in Big 12)
Head Coach: Dana Holgorsen (17-9 at WVU)
Last Bowl Game: 2012 Pinstripe Bowl: lost to Syracuse 38-14
Stadium: Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, WV (capacity = 60,540)
Home Field Advantage: ranked 45th out of 69 BCS teams
Stats to Fear: gave up 78 plays of 20 or more yards (last in Big 12), opponents converted on 45.64% of third downs (9th in Big 12)
Stat to Cheer: only had 13 turnovers in 2012 (2nd in Big 12)
Advanced Stats (Football Outsiders 2012 FEI Ranking): 52nd out of 124 teams
Phil Steele's Returning Starters: Offense: 3, Defense: 7, Special Teams: 0
Key Defensive Returnees: FS Karl Joseph (102 tackles, 2 INT), LB Isaiah Bruce (90 tackles, 2 INT)
Key Offensive Returnee: RB Andrew Buie (850 yds rush, 4.7 ypc, 7 TD)
Inside Scoop with the Eye and Eer Blog:
CFBZ: The Mountaineers came into 2012 with high hopes and started off 5-0 but then lost five straight games. What went wrong?
Eye and Eer Blog: Two things went wrong. First, the offense started believing the hype and the press clippings and they felt they could score on every possession. However, the Big 12 defenses started throwing new things at Geno and Co. and all of a sudden WVU wasn't scoring. That's when everyone finally noticed how bad the defense really was. Giving up 63 points to Baylor should have been a sign, but all anyone could talk about was the 70 points the Mountaineers scored. The defense was just atrocious during that five-game losing streak. If not, WVU beats TCU and Oklahoma, which would have meant nine wins.
CFBZ: What will the transfer of RB Charles Sims mean to the Mountaineers this year?
Eye and Eer Blog: Charles Sims will add a dimension to the running game that just didn't exist last year with Dustin Garrison, Ryan Clarke and Andrew Buie. Sims had some injury issues last year, but he's considered one of the top running backs for next year's NFL draft and that's exactly what WVU needed to boost the backfield. It will be a shock if he's not starting when the season opens Aug. 31 against William & Mary.
CFBZ: Who takes over for Geno Smith?
Eye and Eer Blog: Paul Millard has been the back-up the past two seasons, but with Clint Trickett transferring from Florida State it looks like he will get the nod by the start of the year. Trickett isn't very imposing, but he picked up some solid experience with the Seminoles, even playing against Big 12 power Oklahoma. Keeping him healthy is important. Trickett has to learn Holgorsen's system, but all the reports out of Morgantown say he's working hard and will be ready when the season opens.
CFBZ: What will make the 2013 season a success in your eyes?
Eye and Eer Blog: WVU has a history of shining when expectations are low. Last year a seven-win season was a huge disappointment. I can almost guarantee you most WVU fans would love to get to seven wins in 2013. So 7-5 and a bowl game is enough to keep us happy in 2013.
In 2012, led by Heisman Trophy contender Geno Smith, WVU stormed out to a 5-0 record. The Mountaineers would proceed to lose the next five games giving up at least 39 points in every game. They finished 7-6 in what had to be disappointing to fans as they came into the season with such high hopes.
The offense averaged 39.5 ppg but must replace their three key players (QB Geno Smith, WR Tavon Austin, WR Stedman Bailey). This year, Holgorsen's offense will be dependent on transfers. Former FSU QB, Clint Trickett played in nine games last year for the Seminoles (although limited playing time) and completed 64.7% of his 34 passes for 272 yards. In 2011, he saw a little more action as he completed 61.1% of his 72 attempts and threw 7 TD vs 4 INT. If Trickett can learn the offense and the personnel he could be a good fit. At RB, WVU returns a nice back in Andrew Buie but will also have a transfer that could be a game changer. Former Houston RB Charles Sims only played in nine games in 2012 but ran for 846 yards on 5.96 ypc with 11 TD. Sims is a dual threat, which is perfect for the WVU offense, as he had 37 receptions last year and 51 receptions in 2012. The biggest question-mark could be WR position as the Mountaineers leading returning receiver caught only 13 passes last year (not counting RB Andrew Buie's 28). WVU will probably lean a bit on JUCO's and true freshmen at this position. The OL was inconsistent last year and now must rebuild as they lose three starters but do return three players with seven or more starts. The offense has a lot of question-marks and will no doubt rely on how successful these transfers are. Even with the turnover on offense, I expect Holgorsen to field a competent offense at worst.
The WVU defense gave up the most points in the Big 12 (38.1 ppg) and the 8th most yards (472.8 ypg). They struggled to get off the field on third down (45.64% opponent success rate) and they gave up a lot of big plays (78 plays of over 20 yards, 22 plays of over 40 yards). Along the DL, the Mountaineers lose only Jorge Wright so you should since consistency at this position and at least a little improvement. LB is going to be the area of the defense that fans worry about, in terms of replacing talent, as Terence Garvin and Josh Francis must be replaced. Holgorsen has again dipped into the JUCO gene pool and has two guys who could help contribute at this position. The secondary returns five or their top six players but buyer beware as they gave up 64 passing plays of 20 or more yards last year. The defense has to be better if the Mountaineers want to climb up the Big 12 ladder. Will they take a step forward this year?
With the dynamic trio of Smith, Austin and Bailey, the Mountaineers were very unpredictable. One week they beat Texas on the road by three points. The next week they turned around and lost to Texas Tech by 35. Without them, this years team could be even more up and down. Vegas has the Mountaineers win total set at 5.5. There looks to be four solid wins on the schedule and then three or four that will be up in the air depending on how the transfers take and how the defense plays. I think we are looking at a floor of five wins and a ceiling of eight. I do think this team makes a bowl and will probably catch a team or two by surprise.
Previous 2013 Pre-Season Previews: