CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- RUSH SANG THE lyrics "there is unrest in the forest."Lead singer Geddy Lee should check out Mountaineer Nation these days.After an amazing end to the 2010-11 season (Orange Bowl rout of Clemson) and a fast start to last season (5-0, including thrilling wins over Baylor and Texas), enthusiasm for WVU's team curbed in a manner only Larry David could appreciate. Tempered expectations extended throughout the Big 12. WVU was picked to finish eighth among the 10 league teams via the preseason media poll.To which I say, oh ye WVU fans of little faith.
New quarterback Clint Trickett will help. He might not be great or an NFL prospect, but he will be good. New running back Charles Sims could be great. Fellow back Dreamius Smith will help. And Trickett's father, Rick, once told me great running backs can make an offensive line look good.Defensively, WVU can only get better. And word I'm getting out of Mountaineer camp is the unit is significantly better.In sum, the Mountaineers will win more games than they'll lose. They've been to 11 straight bowls. Playing in a jumbled Big 12, they'll make it 12.
Here's how:Aug. 31, William & Mary at WVU - I know William & Mary lost but 7-6 to Maryland last season. (You'll read that ad nauseam before WVU's kickoff.) I respect Tribe coach Jimmye Laycock and new offensive coordinator Kevin Rogers. But WVU will roll. W&M was picked to finish ninth in the FCS Colonial Athletic Association - ahead of Albany and Rhode Island. Need I write more? WVU, 42-13.Sept. 7, WVU at Oklahoma - Here's where WVU's defense will have to show its improvement. Whether the Sooners start big Blake Bell or Trevor Knight, the QB won't be polished. WVU will have the more experienced signal-caller in Clint Trickett. And remember the last time a guy transferred to WVU at QB and went to Norman? Jeff Hostetler took a win back to Morgantown. Still ... Oklahoma, 30-17.Sept. 14, Georgia State at WVU - Georgia State might be the worst team among FBS schools. Adding ex-Boston College coach Jeff Jagodzinski as offensive coordinator won't help one bit. WVU, 59-13.
Sept. 21, WVU vs. Maryland (Baltimore) - It'll be interesting to see how WVU's Dana Holgorsen coaches this game. Maryland had awful luck with QB injuries last season (using a freshman linebacker at the end), but returns C.J. Brown there and Stefon Diggs - remember him? - at receiver. Will Holgorsen turn to a "Ground Raid" with Sims and Smith and try to grind this out? WVU, 28-27.Sept. 28, Oklahoma State at WVU - OSU will be highly ranked and fresh from an off-week for this one. WVU will be, at least, a 10-point underdog. Still, here is where Trickett and the Mountaineer team can make a name for themselves. The Cowboys will get a taste of WVU's rowdy fans. The problem for the hosts, though, will be Oklahoma State's receivers, starring Josh Stewart. OSU, 35-21.Oct. 5, WVU at Baylor - No one will expect West Virginia to hit Waco and win this game. But it will. There are two reasons. First, the Mountaineers offense is flexible. While the Bears break in QB Bryce Petty, they'll be feeding the pigskin to running back Lache Seastrunk, a self-described Heisman Trophy contender. WVU will cut Trickett loose. Second, WVU will benefit from the competition of the early schedule. Baylor's opponents before this: Wofford, Buffalo, Louisiana-Monroe. WVU, 30-24. Oct. 19, Texas Tech at WVU - If Holgorsen can't get his team - and himself - fired up for this one, he's not much of a ball coach. Last season in Lubbock, the Red Raiders barbequed the Mountaineers 49-14. It was the start of the end for WVU. As for Holgorsen, new Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury was one of his proteges. Also, news out of Lubbock is QB Michael Brewer has back problems. WVU, 41-21.
Oct. 26, WVU at Kansas State - This is a game WVU can win. Gone is QB Collin Klein, receiver Chris Harper, almost the entire defense and both kickers. Wildcats coach Bill Snyder was deciding between two quarterbacks heading into the weekend. The strength of this team: Snyder himself. Flip a coin. Kansas State, 28-20.Nov. 2, WVU at TCU - This will be the Mountaineers' toughest game of the season. Heading into the weekend, TCU coach Gary Patterson said Casey Pachall, who was arrested and put in rehab before returning, was locked in a duel with Trevone Boykin. Regardless, the Horned Frogs will shine defensively with almost all of their starters back. TCU, 48-28.Nov. 9, Texas at WVU - Mountaineer fans will fill Milan Puskar Stadium with hopes of an upset. That's understandable after last year's 48-45 WVU win in Austin. The hunch here, though, is Texas will come together and have a nice team behind QB David Ash and future NFL back Johnathan Gray. For once, the Longhorns will play to their potential the whole season. Texas, 33-17.Nov. 16, WVU at Kansas - The Jayhawks will be better this year. Charlie Weis' Dayne Crist experiment is over at QB. Replacing him is BYU transfer Jake Heaps. The defense is filled with JUCOs. What should be a gimmee putt for WVU won't be. Yet ... WVU, 36-30. Nov. 30, Iowa State at WVU - Cyclones coach Paul Rhoades jammed a dagger in the heart of Mountaineer fans in Morgantown in 2007 as defensive coordinator at Pitt. (I won't rehash any more than that.) This year, Rhoads will have to provide more defensive magic with A.J. Klein and Jake Knott gone. Offensively, he has a sophomore quarterback in Sam Richardson and a young receiving corps. WVU, 48-10.
Final WVU regular season record: 7-5, Texas Bowl.
Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.