West Virginia will be playing for a lot more than regaining the pride of their football program. They’ll be playing for Dana Holgorsen’s job. In a season that will feature a lot of hot seat talk, this game in Ames could be one of the make-or-break games for his job.
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It’s been a hard fall to the bottom after the Mountaineers came in guns blazing in the 2012 season and fit right in with everybody in the Big 12. Geno Smith was a Heisman candidate after putting up 70 on Baylor and 48 against Texas in consecutive weeks.
One problem — after the 5-0 start, there were no answers on defense. As Smith collapsed in the middle of the season, so did the rest of the team. There were only four teams that West Virginia held under 34 points that year — James Madison, Maryland, Kansas, and Iowa State (who had the most out of the group with 24).
Last year was all over the place. They followed up a 37-0 shutout vs Maryland with a win over Oklahoma State 30-21. Sometimes the defense looked decent, then it looked like the worst in the Big 12. A 3-point win at TCU saved this team from losing their final seven games in the season.
Nov 30, 2013; Morgantown, WV, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers head coach Dana Holgorsen directs his team from the sideline during the first quarter against against the Iowa State Cyclones at Milan Puskar Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
However, there’s a lot to look forward to this season for West Virginia. The offense is loaded and they’ll have the best stable of running backs in the conference. The best name in the Big 12, Dreamius Smith, could emerge as the leader. Or it could be juniors Andrew Blue or Dustin Garrison. Or Pittsburgh transfer Rushel Shell.
West Virginia will run their offense from the backfield, especially early on in the season. Once they have a quarterback and receivers emerge, they could have a late-season surge for a bowl game and the potential to save Holgorsen’s job.
After the likely shellacking against Alabama in Atlanta, the schedule is manageable. They got the Big 12’s big dogs at home (Oklahoma, Baylor, Kansas State) for a chance to pull off an upset or two. That is, if the defense has any sort of improvement over the last two years.
Too early prediction
If West Virginia turns into a running game powerhouse that wears defenses down and then throws on them, this is a horrible matchup for Iowa State. The Mountaineers can expose the Cyclone defensive line. Despite losing to ISU last year, they had the second-most rushing yards (212) in one game that season, just 33 yards shy of what they put up against Georgia State.
There’s a chance that both teams could be playing for a bowl berth here (I have ISU 5-5 in my too early season so far). Unfortunately for Iowa State, senior day/night will end in nightmare fashion. The offense won’t ever get on the same page and WVU lights up the defense with well over 300 rushing yards.
This will be one of those “What the hell?” games that will leave the Cyclones fighting for a bowl berth in the final week of the season.
WVU 40, IAST 17