BY DANIEL MOGOLLON
COLLEGE FOOTBALL INSIDERS
2006 RECORD: 11-2; BIG EAST: 5-2
Won Gator Bowl vs. Georgia Tech 38-35
LOCATION: Morgantown, West Virginia
STADIUM: Mountaineer Field (60,000)
HEAD COACH: Rich Rodriguez
OVERALL: 50-24 (6 seasons)
AT WEST VIRGINIA: 50-24 (6 seasons)
Hey…just because everywhere you look pundits and prognosticators list the Mountaineers as a top five team does not mean they are. Would they still be a top five team if they had USC’s schedule or Michigan’s or Texas’? Not if people were taking truth serum. If this were a poll to project the probabilities of which teams will reach 10 wins then West Virginia would rank higher, but based on their talent, on the roster, the Big East school does not warrant a higher ranking. Who ever thought the Morgantown faithful could feel insulted by a #13 preseason ranking? Don’t make the mistake of reading your press clippings.
WHEN THE MOUNTAINEERS HAVE THE BALL
OFFENSIVE COORDINAROR: Calvin Magee (4th Season)
OFFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING: 7
KEY LOSSES: Brandon Myles, Dan Mozes, Jeremy Sheffey
The Mountaineers can be nearly impossible to stop with their unique brand of spread formation-read option offense. No one spreads you out and runs at you the way Rich Rodriguez’s club does. Of course, it helps when you possess two of the fastest players in America in quarterback Pat White and tailback Steve Slaton. Both are game-breakers on the ground, which makes it nearly impossible to key in on either one, especially with White such a good decision maker, not to mention lead blocker Owen Schmitt. White has also made strides as a passer, not quite John Elway just yet, but certainly good enough to get the job done and he has a weapon too. Darius Reynaud is another burner on this side of the ball and he gives them a third home run threat, however there is not much after him. The offensive line is the biggest question mark on offense, inasmuch as highly regarded line coach Rick Trickett is gone, leaving newbie Greg Frey (O-Line coach at USF) to teach three new starters the zone-blocking scheme.
PRO PROSPECTS: 1) Steve Slaton (JR), 2) Oman Schmitt (SR), 3) Darius Reynaud (JR), 4) Greg Isdaner (SO), 5) Ryan Stanchek (JR), 6) Pat White (JR), 7) Pat McAfee (JR)
WHEN THE OTHER TEAM HAS THE BALL
DEFENSIVE COORDINAROR: Jeff Casteel (6th Season)
DEFENSIVE STARTERS RETURNING: 8
KEY LOSSES: Kevin McLee, Jay Henry
This is the side of the ball that makes the Mountaineers vulnerable team. They have eight starters back, including all five defensive backs, however they could not stop a passing offense that was worth a lick, so I am not sure if that is a good thing. Tackle Keilen Dykes is their best player and does a great job of stopping the run, however the rest of their line is pedestrian with nary a pass rusher in sight. Their safeties are the strength of the back eight, with free safety Quinton Andrews their leading tackler and interceptor as a freshman and strong safety Eric Wicks their top playmaker, leading the squad in sacks. Reed Williams should also have a fruitful season at linebacker, a productive backup who is ready to step in and start in his junior campaign. They allowed any decent offense they faced to put up points, including fellow Big East contenders Louisville and West Virginia, each of which moved the ball basically at will.
PRO PROSPECTS: 1) Keilen Dykes (SR), 2) Quinton Andrews (SO), 3) Reed Williams (JR)
Expect them to be perfect out of conference again, as none of their foes figures to be much of a match. Clearly among road trips to Marshall and Maryland, as well as home games against Western Michigan, East Carolina and Mississippi St. the Terps are the toughest match-up. I love playing a SEC team, but do they have to play the worst SEC club? In conference, before they play their “game of the year” against Louisville (at home), WVU must get by Rutgers and South Florida on the road. Last season at home, the Mountaineers needed triple overtime to take the Scarlet Knights, while South Florida pulled off the upset in regulation.
What the Mountaineers have going for them that previous Cinderella teams did not is the belief of voters. They are ranked third in the Associated Press Poll and sixth in the Coach’s Poll heading into the season, cutting down the amount of teams they must hurdle to make their way into the BCS championship game. The schedule is set up to make a run and WVU could end up favored in all 12 games they play this season. In order for them to make it all the way, no more than one other team from the other major conferences can be undefeated. Voters are fickle, so if say Oklahoma or Wisconsin were to run the table along with USC or LSU, they could leapfrog the Mountaineers.
CFI FINAL ANALYSIS
The Mountaineers, when considering all the factors, have as good a chance as anyone in the country to run the table and find themselves in the BCS Championship game. While I may have them rated lower than most (if not all), the bottom line is their performance on the field will speak for itself and if they keep on putting up W’s as others are dealt L’s, they will move up. I just do not see them winning both road games against Rutgers and South Florida or slowing down Louisville’s explosive passing attack. Remember, these are rankings not standings, so while records are important, they must be weighed against what others have done.
Check back tomorrow to see who is #12 in CFI’s Top 25 Countdown