WVU football and the troubling numbers

Time to take the temperature because I sense the blood is beginning to boil a little bit. Maybe it’s the heat and the doldrums from the dead of summer. Maybe it’s the slow acceptance of a certain reality. Maybe it’s something else. I don’t know, but I want to know.

What bothers you more?

Is it that WVU is a 24-point underdog in a season-opening game in the Georgia Dome against Alabama … or that the Mountaineers are expected to kind of tank again and were picked as only the 78th best team in the country by a pretty respected voice who’s been kind to WVU in the past?

So this isn’t a Big 12 contender, but we knew that already. Instead, I see WVU as a borderline bowl team – not three-win bad, as some have suggested, but hovering somewhere between five and seven wins.

They speak to similar and different problems, of course. The similarities are easy, but the differences are what make this exercise.

The point spread seems to underline a chasm between WVU, as currently constituted, and Alabama, as constituted then, now and in the future. It suggests WVU can’t hang with a big-time program and lacks the proper armaments to make the argument that it can. It more or less implies the Mountaineers are back to where they were in the early 2000s, when it was a big deal to beat a non-conference team, never mind slap together a winning streak against the SEC. It’s not a state of the union sort of thing, but it’s not a a hollow indication, either. It’s filled with suggestions about where WVU is at this moment, and those things naturally encourage you to think about where WVU should be.

The ranking isn’t scientific, but it puts the Mountaineers in a certain neighborhood, and I hate to tell you this, but there’s a baby selling crack on that corner and a flake who keeps 35 cats in that house over there. I mean, there are 128 teams listed. WVU was the 50th. I’m not sure you would have been happy in recent years if WVU was ranked No. 50 overall and this is 50th from the bottom. That’s just above between Louisiana Tech (No. 80) and Buffalo (No. 79) and just below Troy (No. 77) and San Jose State (No. 76). This is not the company the Mountaineers want, need or intend to keep.

Again, it’s not reality. The reality is that it’s a starting point and nothing more, but there’s a certain reality attached to that, to say nothing of a perception that is really hard to shake. “It’s difficult to be overly optimistic,” it is written. “But let’s give optimism a try: West Virginia simply can’t be worse…” Put that on a poster, Matt Wells.

But we should remember this: In the moments it’s been best positioned and most capable of making history, WVU has been big on numbers as motivation. Which one draws your ire most?

29 Responses to “WVU football and the troubling numbers”

  1. netbros says:

    Neither indicates much faith in the program. The number that draws my ire most though, is 4-8.

  2. anxiouseer97 says:

    I see no reason to be optimistic. We don’t have a proven or serviceable QB. We have lots of ostensible talent at the RB position, the value of which seems questionable given that we run a pass heavy spread offense – which requires a proven or serviceable QB. We’ve had some strange coaching moves. Our defense is swiss cheese. We have a lot of experience coming back, which bodes well on one level, and not so much on another. The schedule is tough. Our HC doesn’t seem to handle adversity very well during a game, and otherwise does a lousy of job of motivating fans and I wonder if that holds true for the players. But, it’s supposed to be 90 today – maybe it’s just the heat.

  3. charles jewell says:

    I disagree that the program has regressed to the early 2000′s, I think you have to all the way back to the late 60″s to find the program in this condition. We have lost 16 of the last 20 games, had one of the worst defenses in the FBS 2 years in a row, 2 years now without a dependable starting quarterback, on our 4th defensive coordinator in 4 years, and the rest of the staff has been a virtual coaching carousel.

    It is apparent to me that Head Coach Dana Holgorsen should not be one!

  4. Fan Maybe in Waiting says:

    I would be thrilled with 7-5 this year considering the schedule, the lack of a solid QB (at this moment) and the performance last year. It means we’ve won some close games that we lost last year. It means we’ll come in around 35th in 2015. Hopefully we can keep the team together moving forward along with the stellar recruiting classes so we should start seeing top 25 again around 2016 or about 4 years after joining.

    My little scenario also means Dana has matured as a head coach, we have a functional QB and the defense has improved.

    We lived through the maturity process in the Big East Basketball conference and we can live through the same in football.

  5. Shoot4show says:

    I couldn’t care less about the ‘bama spread. The spread is a mechanism to make both sides of a bet attractive enough to get folks to wager on both sides. It’s an indication of how the two teams are perceived relative to one another — one game, two teams.

    The ranking and anticipated W/L record reflect how the team is perceived relative to a number of teams encompassing a season of games. That stings much worse.

  6. Oklahoma Mountaineer says:

    Until we beat somebody, last year is what they are going to go on — no change at the position that appears to be the biggest question — QB. That said, I think Trickett is much better this year provided they 5 guys in front of him can give him a pocket.

  7. Mack says:

    Someone reading a stat book could view Bill Stewart as one of the best coaches in WVU history and Dana Holgorsen as one of the worst.

    Oh, and preseason predictions mean less than nothing. WVU will be better than it was last year. Last year, it won four games, lost two by a possession, and lost two more by 10 points or less. Unless injuries play a huge part, the basement for this team is five wins.

  8. Oklahoma Mountaineer says:

    Forgot one thing……not only provide a pocket, but run block effectively. Charles Sims could make his own way…..not many can do what he did — here or in the NFL — with the quality of play he had in front of him last year.

  9. ccteam says:

    You are never as bad as you believe after a loss (or losing season) or as good as you believe after a win ( or winning season). A healthy starting qb would have made a difference last year and will be a major difference for this year’s team as well. But even with a healthy Trickett this team is not a conference championship contender. Holgersen has a lot on the line this year. He needs to prove he has what it takes to use a serviceable but not great qb and win with him. He needs to improve his game and clock management skills. I think this is an above .500 team if they can stay healthy. If not, then it could turn really bad again.

  10. avb31 says:

    I would take Brad Lewis over any QB on this roster.

  11. ffejbboc says:

    The only difference between DH and The Product was that RR stumbled into #5 and #10.

    That is what made him a coach who could shop himself around to big time programs.

    True we had a great supporting cast (Owens, Reynaud, etc). But really it was those two players. And if Bednarik hadn’t gotten hurt, the more experienced RBs hadn’t been so unproductive, and we weren’t getting our butts kicked in the 3rd quarter of the Louisville game, would #5 and #10 have even happened?

    It was a perfect storm.

    DH just needs to find his own #5 and #10.

  12. ffejbboc says:

    The year we got blown out by Nebraska 31-0 in the Kick Off Classic, we started 1-4 and ended up playing South Carolina in a bowl game.

    I would settle for similiar results if we lose to Alabama, only would hope for a bowl win instead of losing to a QB with a mullet.

  13. I love you, Doug! says:

    ffejbboc, I’d argue that DH had his #5 and #10 for two season in #12 and #1. Maybe your argument is RichRod had his guys longer. At any rate, I’m still sticking by my Completely Indefensible Prediction of 8-4 (heretofore known as the “CIP8-4″).

  14. Sammy says:

    The hard part this season is the regression — or reversion? — of WVU football in absolute terms has coincided with a significant step up in competition, particularly this year when we have added the best program of the last 5-8 years to a schedule that already features multiple top 15 opponents.

    I don’t think we would have gone 11-1 with #5 and #10 against this schedule, though I’d take their odds over this team.

  15. ffejbboc says:

    Doug, I’d have to disagree with you about the dynamic-ness of Geno overall.

    Don’t get me wrong, Geno was a very good QB. And he could scramble effectively. But Pat had wheels (and quickness) that took him to a whole other level.

    As for the Tavon – Slaton comparison, I would go you one better and say Austin surpasses Slaton overall in talent AND durability. It’s just too bad he wasn’t used at RB until the Oklahoma game his senior year.

    I think if Tavon had been utilized properly all along, he & Geno might very well have been DH’s #5 and #10.

  16. ffejbboc says:

    Probably would be remiss if I didn’t add to my post that the missing element in DH’s teams hasn’t been offense: it has been defense.

    He really paid no attention to defense when putting his original staff together. And it showed with guys like Daron Roberts and DeForest leading the charge. And it came back to bite him.

    Would have been interesting to see what would have happened if Casteel would have stuck around. A stable Casteel hemmed 3-3-5 defense combined with the Geno-Tavon-Steadman offense might have been able to do something.

  17. Philip says:

    i love you, i love you, doug! and your cip8-4. you embody fanaticism at its finest and are a man after my own deluded heart.

  18. Philip says:

    been following myerberg for about six years now. he’s always been thorough and thoughtful — and wrong. save for his prediction for the 2011 squad, wvu always finished worse than he forecast.

    that said, i appreciate his candor and, even for the worst teams, his ability to find silver linings for the fans. his concern is our concern — the o-line — but if we can get past that … cip8-4?

  19. Dann White says:

    As bad as the spring/early-summer drought is, June-July-August is the worrisome time of year for me. As Anxious pointed out, the lack of a real hope at QB really drains all hope of offensive success in a DH-coached team, and the only real bright spots are in the prospects of a couple of reputable transfers on the squad. (Clint Trickett has yet to work his way up to reputable on my scale)
    While I am pleased that Shaq Riddick, Cullen Christian, and Rushel Shell have brought their resumes to the WVU cause, it is always impossible for me to relax in the summer drought. This is made worse this year by the scheduling of the SEC’s premier team for an opener.
    While I am for aggressive scheduling in most cases, this unfortunately is a team that could use a little help learning how to win again – so much for that, let’s cross our fingers.
    Ready or not, here they come!

  20. Ben Dover says:

    A ranking of 78 is a gift as WVU has done nothing to earn a rating that high. I seriously doubt that they will be ranked that high once the season ends.

    That program is in the toilet and there isn’t one single positive to take away from or to look forward to…we can’t even afford to get rid of the head coach because of the rediculous contract that Luck signed.

    Good grief…

  21. chocolate covered bacon says:

    Speaking of numbers…

    There are 17 o-lineman listed on the roster and 3 will graduate. There are 15 d-lineman on the roster and 1 will graduate. Both are positions that experience and years in a system is an accepted predictor of performance.

    Holgorsen had the smallest graduating class of any team in the Big-12 last season and will have one of the smallest graduating classes again this season. When you remove the transfers and CC players the graduating class is amazingly small by comparison to the rest of the Big-12, or power-5 conference programs.

    To win consistently in the Big-12 depth is vital. A commodity that HCDH simply has not had. Those players that he did have struggled to stay healthy the last two seasons, particularly last season.

    To me, HCDH appeared to give up at the end of the season last year, at least that is what it appeared as a fan from lcj’s 10,000 feet. Maybe he simply read the tea leaves and realized the predicament he was in and the numbers on his roster.

    Ironically, Mountaineer fans need to go back to the White and Slaton teams to find adequate depth at key positions. Even then those teams were not what any football purist would call “deep” teams. They were simply deeper than the rest of the teams in their conference.

    I like most of what HCDH has accomplished for his program in his first two seasons, the major exception is the won/loss record. As a glass half full type of guy, I’d choose to believe the program is positioning itself to compete successfully in it’s new conference. It’s head coach is doing the same.

    I believe the coach and his program are in serious need of a signature victory. Unfortunately, that victory has to be won by the players on the roster. A coach can position his players to the best of his ability, and some do a much better job than others (Popovich comes to mind here).

    Last season, with this roster, how many fans would have been screaming for Logan Moore/William Crest to play when Trickett was hurt and Millard/Childress were throwing their wounded ducks all over the field? Options are a good thing and HCDH has more today than at any point since his arrival.

    I believe the team will be much improved in a conference that has a noticeable decline in star players overall. Will it compete for a conference title and enter the mix of long shots for the national title, no. Still, I believe the potential for respectability is far higher than is thought by most fans.

    A bowl appearance and a final record of 7-6, or 8-5 is/should be reasonable expectations this season. If the schedule wasn’t so strong expectations would be better. Bottom line, embarrassment will no longer be the first emotion when discussing the WVU football team.

    It’ll start in the Georgia Dome. Take the points and bet the house.

  22. 4WVU says:

    Lets not forget the calm before the storm… Defense will be one of, if not the best in the Big 12 this year. As horrible as we were last year Oklahoma was lucky to get the win… they end up beating a great Alabama team by a large margin in the bowl game. Bama maybe able to “reload” on a yearly basis but they lost several key players from a year ago including the team leader at qb. If WVU can get William Crest (true freshman dual threat) ready for this pitch and catch system we may have a shot at a 7 win season. On the down side, if we cant find somebody that can pitch the pig skin, 2 or 3 wins might be hard to swallow.

  23. The 25314 says:

    And to think that a little less than 8 years ago, that “big time” program tried to hire our coach, and he turned them down, because there were more “reasons to stay” at WVU than “reasons to go” to Bama.

  24. StuckinOhio says:

    I don’t understand the doom and gloom surrounding WVU this year. I’m actually really optimistic this year. Yes, QB play was terrible last year and people don’t know what to make of Skylar Howard, or Logan Moore, Hell, Let’s be honest, no one can honestly say how well Trickett was or wasn’t because he was injured the entire year, trying to play on a shoulder that needed surgery. Either way, with new NCAA restrictions lifted, and Dana and his staff getting one on one time with Howard, Logan, and even dual threat newcomer William Crest 10 hours a week, before August camp. You can’t tell me at the very least QB play won’t be improved, and someone won’t shoot to the forefront, even if it is Moore, Howard or Crest.

    As far as Bama goes, This game is going to be closer, in my eyes than people think. Yes, it’s “Alabama” but they have just as many question marks as WVU does at QB. They’re putting all their faith in Jake Coker who was behind Winston at FSU, and only college football experience was clean up duty against WF, NC State, Maryland, Bethune Cookman, Nevada, and Pitt. Now he’s leading Bama, with an O line every Bama fan was furious about in the spring game that seem inexperienced and shaky at best. Bama, will be shaky coming out of the gate against us offensively, even more so if the D can get good pressure, and we have to strike early and often on offense and give them a run for their money.

    As for last year, we lost close games, many with second half leads. I think that partially has to do with an amount of Big East recruits still on the roster last year. No offense to our boys, but TCU had Mountain/west partial big east recruits, and they had the exact same records as us, 7-6 and 4-8 respectively. This year we’ll have mostly Big 12 recruits, and others with 2 years of big 12 experience, so they know when to dig down and close out those close games. With healthy QB play, and experience, you can probably say that you can add 3-4 games to the win column from last year, in ISU, Texas, Texas Tech, and Oklahoma. It’s not a stretch of the imagination to say we were a 7 win team that just couldn’t hang at the end of the games.

    TL;DR Holgorsen, this year gets more time with Qb’s, especially Howard, Logan, and Crest to prepare them before August Camp. Alabama has Question marks at Qb and Offensive Line, their D has trouble against Air Raid/Up tempo offenses. Last year was a tribute to inexperience in a new league, and realistically I can see 8-9 wins this season including a few shockers. Let’s GOOO!!!

  25. m2ther says:

    Well my take is that WVU recruiting is sub-par and it has nothing to do with the kids they are trying to attrak its a location situation that will never be fixed. Yes the big 12 is a huge conference, but the risk is that WVU is so far away. Kids want to play near their home so family and friends can see them. If a kid is from the east coast then how can family members see them in Oklahoma. If a kid is from Texas how will they see him in morgantown this mistake in moving conferences will hamper WVU and it will never end ever.

    We have to get out of the Big 12 recruitment from Florida is over, which was our goldmine. We took the troubled kids with awesome talent; they will now go to south Florida or some other south eastern school that will take a chance on them.

  26. The away games are indeed a problem for anyone other than the most affluent. The pending changes with the Big 5 conferences will likely address that issue for players’ families and traveling costs.

    The 2015 recruiting class is doing very well, including Florida. 46 Florida players have been offered and 6 have given verbals. Three of them are four star and three are three star rated.

    JaJuan Seider and Damon Cogdell are recruiting Florida very successfully. A nice chunk of gold coming out of that mine has a big WV stamped right on it!

  27. SheikYbuti says:

    Screw it, I say we go all “Blue Chips” on the situation and just start paying recruits under the table and otherwise cheating our butts off. There’s an excellent chance that we could win a national championship in a few years, and, given my age and longevity outlook, I could very well die a happy man before everything goes sideways and our title is stripped. To heck with you younger guys; I want to get mine before it’s too late.

  28. SheikYbuti says:

    Also, I don’t care if global warming is a threat; I’m cranking up my coal-fired air conditioning. So there.

  29. smeer says:

    as MW shared, the doom and gloom over WVU recruiting is perplexing. We have and are getting even better facilities than we’ve ever had, can offer kids a chance to play in what has been arguably the second best conference in America. recruiting is about relationships/trust and offering the kids something worthwhile. We have an exceptional piplline built to Baltimore and South Florida. many kids want to travel – we offer them a chance to see the Southwest. We off them a place away from distractions where they are THE SHOW. The program may not have SEC luster, but it will get its share of recruits and pretty much has the whole Eastern Seaboard to recruit to offer kids the B12. No chicken little syndrome.