31 May 2012
This could be the year. This could finally be what Mountaineer fans have been waiting for. This could finally be the season where West Virginia makes its case as a national title contender, and an eventual champion.
After wrapping up the 2011 season with a convincing 70-33 win over Clemson in the Orange Bowl, the Mountaineers quickly found themselves shifting their attention to 2012. Their inaugural season in the Big 12 conference will present many challenges but also the possibility for something very special.
In order for WVU to reach their ultimate goal, various dots have to be connected. The team, in and of itself, has many factors working in their favor. The offense is talented enough to keep the 'Eers is every game they play. The defense is a solid mix of experience and young, athletic play-makers that is expected to keep them in every contest.
The key for West Virginia's rise to the promise land in 2012 can be broken down to 3 must-wins games.
#1 Oklahoma (home) 11/17/12
This was an obvious choice as the top game. Oklahoma has its own aspirations to be a national champion.
Landry Jones returns at the quarterback position after throwing for over 4,400 yards and 29 touchdowns in 2011. Some concerns loom among the wide receiving core after recent suspensions, but there's plenty of talent on the offensive side of the ball. The defense, per its usual self, should be loaded once again. The unit finished last season second best in the Big 12 in total defense.
The big key for WVU is the game being played in Morgantown. That will help - but this is a definite must-win if the Mountaineers hope to find their way to a title game.
#2 Texas (road) 10/6/12
Go ahead and forget about Texas' struggles the last couple years. The Longhorns are still one of the most talent teams in the Big 12. While there are still question marks surrounding the quarterback position, the Horns have enough talent on offense to be dangerous. And traveling to Austin is never easy.
Jaxson Shipley returns as their top pass-catcher, and running back Malcom Brown looks to improve on an impressive freshman campaing in which he rushed for 727 yards and 9 touchdowns.
The defense lost several players to the NFL, but last season's top ranked defense in the conference still has talent spread out.
#3 Oklahoma State (road) 11/10/12
This was a tough decision. Picking our third, and final, must-win game just proves how tough the 2012 slate is for WVU. What could've been TCU (home) or Kansas State (home) ended up being a trip to Stillwater to face the Cowboys.
The defending Big 12 champions have a couple question marks - let's not forget that. Not long ago, head coach Mike Gundy announced true freshman Wes Lunt will be the starter. That's a tall task for a youngster, even if he plays in a spread offense. And the Cowboys defense must improve after giving up 457 yards per game in 2011.
Still, the Cowboys are talented. Running back Joseph Randle rushed for 1,216 yards and 24 touchdowns last season. He'll be leaned on heavily in 2012.
And even though wide receiver Justin Blackmon is now in the NFL, there are some young pass-catcher looking for an opportunity.
Tracy Moore (672 yards) and Isaiah Anderson (315) are top returners in receiving yards from 2011.
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