It’s now time for the waiting to stop and the games to begin. The much anticipated debut of Dana Holgorsen as the head football coach at West Virginia University is set for this Sunday at 3:30 at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown. In state nemesis will provide the opposition. Also making a debut this Sunday will be beer sales in the stadium, at least for those willing to shell out $7 to $9 each for a libation. Of course the fact the game is being played on a Sunday is a first, at least in my memory.
The following is a brief summary of how one person sees the season unfolding.
There was more than a little drama surrounding the transition from Bill Stewart to Holgorsen as the head coach. Stewart was supposed to have that title for this season and then hand the reins over to Holgorsen in January. That timetable was moved up as Stewart resigned amidst reports that he had asked at least two WVU beat writers to “dig up dirt” on Holgorsen.
Based solely on watching his press conferences the 40-year-old offensive whiz seems comfortable in his new role. Holgorsen was brought here because of his offensive coaching abilities that have seen prolific numbers produced when he was the offensive coordinator at Texas Tech, Houston and Oklahoma State. There is absolutely no reason to think he won’t do the same thing at West Virginia.
The scariest thing about the WVU offense is the quarterback position. Not how returning starter Geno Smith will perform in the offense, but that Smith is the only experienced quarterback on the roster. In fact there are just two scholarship QBs on the roster, the other being true freshman Paul Millard. Needless to say, an injury to Smith could drastically change the course of the Mountaineers season. That is not a knock on Millard who by all accounts would seem to be a very talented prospect. It’s just that having to rely on a true freshman quarterback would be problematic.
Defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel has earned a reputation as one of the best in the business. This year Casteel has to replace seven starters from last year’s top-notch unit. Just how well he can do that is probably the biggest key to success this season. For entertainment value sack specialist Bruce Irvin is back and promises to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks.
Even so, there are questions about Irvin because this year he will be asked to be an every down player. Last season he was only on the field in obvious passing situations. Will he still have the burst needed late in games now? Development of depth will be a huge key for the entire defense, especially the defensive front.
Looking forward, conventional wisdom suggests that a coaching change generally will cost a team a game or two along the way. I’m going to suggest that because the defensive coaching staff remains from last year, that will help minimize some transitional pitfalls. One would also have to like the chances of the offense being much improved. Pitfalls may still be out there, but the coaching transition should be a plus, not a minus.
How does the season play out? From here it looks like wins over Marshall and Norfolk State can be penciled in.
The game at Maryland will tell us a lot. I’m going to count it as a win, but a loss is possible, and if it is a loss, we’re talking about a few more losses.
Then comes the much-anticipated matchup with LSU in Morgantown. If WVU exits this game at 4-0, look out. LSU has the personnel to slow Holgorsen’s offense and enough horses on offense to control the clock. WVU loses a close one.
Against my better judgment, I am predicting a seven game winning streak over Bowling Green, Connecticut, Syracuse, Rutgers, Louisville, Cincinnati and Pitt. That would send WVU to Tampa on December 1 with a 10-1 record and a Thursday night game with South Florida. At 10-1, who knows what could be on the line? A BCS berth might be secured, but could a bigger prize be available?
This could be a bad night, as USF will stump WVU. So, would anyone take 10-2 and a BCS game right now?