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College Football Analysis: What Sort of Year Will West Virginia Have in 2012?

5 Dimes currently has West Virginia’s 2012 regular season college football win totals set at over 8.5 (-130) and under 8.5 (-110). Let’s take a look at how West Virginia figures to perform in their inaugural Big 12 season.

West Virginia’s Offense is LOADED

The West Virginia offense that hung 70 points on Clemson in the 2012 Orange Bowl returns mostly intact.  Quarterback Geno Smith, who threw for 4,385 yards (60.2%) and an impressive 31-7 TD to interception ratio, returns for his second year in head coach Dana Holgorson’s offense.

History suggests that Smith’s numbers could improve in year 2 under Holgerson. Graham Harrell at Texas Tech and Case Keenum at Houston experienced significant jumps in production in year 2 of Holgorson’s offense.

Talented and Deep Wide Receiver Corps

Smith will have one of the best wide receiver corps in college football to play pitch and catch with. Stedman Bailey (72 rec, 1279 yards & 12 TDs) and Tavon Austin (101 rec, 1186 yards & 8 TDs) headline an explosive group. Add Ivan McCartney (49 rec, 585 yards & 3 TDs) into the mix and Smith will not lack for playmakers to throw to.

Defense is Another Story

The Mountaineers have some major question marks on defense. Not only do they lose their top two defensive linemen (NFL first round DE Bruce Irvin and three-year starting DT Julian Miller), they also lose their best linebacker (NFL 5th round selection Najee Goode) and top cornerback (NFL 6th round pick Keith Tandy).

And to top that all off, last year the defense wasn’t very good in the first place. The Mountaineers allowed 364 ypg to Big East offenses that only avg 348 ypg & they allowed 28.86 ppg to Big East teams that avg 24.75 ppg. This year they’ll be playing in a conference where only Kansas and Iowa State avg less than 28 ppg and 7 of the teams (if you include TCU) avg more than 30 ppg. In other words, the mediocre West Virginia defense is about to face some very explosive offenses in the Big 12.

The Mountaineers Inability to Stop the Run

To make things worse, West Virginia ranked dead last in the Big East last year in every major defensive rushing category.  That is not a good sign considering the Mountaineers will be facing a bunch of power rushing attacks like Texas, TCU, K-State, OU and OSU.

West Virginia also loses long-time defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel, so they will be transitioning to a new DC (Joe DeForest) and a new defensive scheme (3-4 instead of Casteel’s 3-3-5).

Schedule and Projected Win Probabilities

The Mountaineers have a mostly favorable schedule. They start the season off with two cupcakes and then get a rebuilding Maryland team at home.

The Big 12 schedule also appears to be quite favorable with only a trip to Austin and a home game to pre-season Big 12 favorite Oklahoma appearing as likely losses.

Below is West Virginia’s 2012 football schedule. I have placed the probability of the Mountaineers winning each game to the right of each opponent.

09/01                   vs Marshall  (95%)

09/15                   vs JMU (@Fed Ex Field)  (100%)

09/22                   vs Maryland (80%)

09/29                   vs Baylor (75%)

10/06                   @ Texas  (35%)

10/13                   @ Texas Tech (55%)

10/20                   vs Kansas State  (60%)

11/03                   vs TCU  (60%)

11/10                   @ Oklahoma State (45%)

11/17                   vs Oklahoma (40%)

11/24                   @ Iowa State (70%)

12/01                   vs Kansas (95%)

The total number I come up for West Virginia is 910, or 9.10 wins based on the win probability numbers.  As you can see, only two games appear to be likely losses on West Virginia’s schedule — a road game at Texas and a home  game against Oklahoma. I also have them as a slight underdog in the game at Oklahoma State, though I consider that game a toss-up. Overall there are four toss-ups (@ Texas Tech, Kansas State, TCU & @ Oklahoma State) and six likely wins.

Based on the overall numbers I have West Virginia winning between 8 and 9 games.

West Virginia’s 2012 Regular Season College Football Win Totals

What have you done for me lately seems to be how a lot of prognosticators and pundits are viewing West Virginia. The 70-33 blowout of Clemson in the Orange Bowl is fresh in everyone’s minds, but people seem to be forgetting that the Mountaineers struggled last season against mediocre Big East teams.

Other than the UCONN game (which WVU led 10-9 at halftime), West Virginia played 6 close, hard fought Big East games. Now their SOS (Strength of Schedule) gets significantly more difficult. How the Mountaineers handle the “step up” in weekly competition will ultimately determine their season win totals.

I believe the current season win totals set at 8.5 is a good number and has very little value from a wagering perspective.

It really comes down to how well you think West Virginia’s defense is going to play this season and how well the team will be able to adjust to the increase in competition level overall. I don’t have enough confidence in either to place a wager on the over, but with their offensive firepower I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Mountaineers winning the conference, so I don’t believe the under has value either.

Let me know in the comments section how many games you think West Virginia will win in their first year in the Big 12. Thank you – Pez.

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Get more great college football analysis over at Saturday Edge.


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