The move from the Big East, where West Virginia was one of the best teams in the conference, to the Big 12 hasn’t worked out great yet for the Mountaineers. They were 8-5 in 2015, and at least that good of a record in 2016 is what’s needed for head coach Dana Holgorsen to keep his job. But WVU is given a wins total of 7 for the coming season on NCAA football odds.
Getting a Closer Look at the 2016 West Virginia Mountaineers Betting Prediction
— WVU Football (@WVUfootball) August 19, 2016
Holgorsen Won’t Be Back In 2017
WVU’s coach is a dynamic offensive mind, but it hasn’t translated on the field. While things got off to a great start in Holgorsen’s first season — the Mountaineers went 10-3 and won the Orange Bowl — the four years of life in the Big 12 haven’t been as successful. West Virginia has gone 26-25 overall since joining the Big 12, and only 15-21 in conference play, never finishing higher than fourth place. Thus Holgorsen doesn’t find himself standing on the firmest of ground. The athletic director who hired him, Oliver Luck, now works for the NCAA and has been replaced by Shane Lyons. Back in December, Holgorsen’s job status was in question. On Dec. 7, Lyons said he had “no comment” when asked the status of the coach. The second-year AD issued a statement two days later that Holgorsen would indeed return, citing that “continuity is best for our program.” Holgorsen wanted a contract extension heading into 2016 but didn’t get it; he is only signed through 2017. Only defensive coordinator Tony Gibson, who had his 2017 salary guaranteed in December, and offensive coordinator Joe Wickline are the only ones to have salaries guaranteed for 2017 on Holgorsen’s coaching staff.
Skyler Howard’s Bowl Performance Won’t Carry Over
One of the most eye-opening performances in a bowl game last year was WVU quarterback Skyler Howard where Howard threw for a Cactus Bowl-record 532 yards and five touchdowns in a 43-42 win over Arizona State. But during losses to ranked teams in October (Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Baylor and TCU), Howard failed to complete half of his throws in each game and was intercepted six times overall. Overall, Howard passed for 3,145 yards and 26 touchdowns in 2015. But he threw 14 interceptions and surpassed 300 yards only two times. The 6-foot, 207-pounder completed just 58.4 percent of his passes. In a quarterback heavy conference, the Mountaineers will need Howard to be consistent if they hope to compete for a Big 12 title. I’m not confident that happens.
Justin Crawford Will Be One Of Big 12’s To Newcomers
One Mountaineer that casual Big 12 fans might not know of is running back Justin Crawford, the reigning Junior College Player of the Year. In 2015, Crawford’s 1,610 rushing yards and 2,022 all-purpose yards led all JUCO players — he logged 10 games over 100 yards rushing. He also found the end zone 16 times on the ground, having a penchant for receiving as well with six touchdowns. The one thing West Virginia’s offense has really lacked since Tavon Austin’s departure in 2012 is a true home-run threat coming out of the backfield. In camp, Crawford has looked to be that guy. WVU should have a terrific 1-2 punch in the backfield with Rushel Shell and Crawford.
The Defense Will Stink Again
West Virginia’s defense has progressively gotten better each season under Holgorsen, with the Mountaineers putting together one of their best seasons in 2015 by allowing 25 points and 400 yards per game. That’s still not all that good. And graduation hit the program hard. The team lost 12 lettermen leaves and has only four returning starters in 2016. The biggest concern is at linebacker, where the team will rely on three players with little to no starting experience. WVU also lost serious talent at defensive back: Karl Joseph (an NFL first-round pick), Daryl Worley and K.J. Dillon.
WVU Will Go Over The 7-Win Total
The Mountaineers are a hard team to read. They should go 3-0 in non-conference play, so can they go at least 5-4 in the Big 12 to top 7 wins on NCAA football lines? I think so. I project wins Oct. 1 vs. Kansas State, Oct. 15 at Texas Tech, Nov. 5 vs. Kansas, Nov. 26 at Iowa State and Dec. 3 vs. Baylor.