MOUNTAINEER GAMEDAY: Spain’s starts, five-stars and the underdogs
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — 1 — That’s the number of five-star recruits West Virginia has landed on National Signing Day the past five seasons, according to Scout.com’s database. In the same span, Alabama has signed 21 five-star recruits, which is nearly twice as many four-star recruits the Mountaineers have landed. As far as top 100 recruits in the past five years, Alabama holds a 40-1 edge over WVU.
2 — Alabama’s national ranking in the Associated Press top 25 poll. The Mountaineers have never defeated a team ranked in the top two of the national poll. Overall, WVU is 0-17 against top two competition (0-10 versus No. 1 teams, 0-7 against teams ranked second).
3 — The highest-ranked opponent West Virginia has ever defeated was third-ranked Virginia Tech. The unranked Mountaineers defeated the Hokies 28-7 in front of a mid-week nationally televised audience. That game was in the Mountain State, though. It wasn’t until 2008, when WVU defeated Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, that the Mountaineers scored an out-of-state win against a team ranked as high as No. 3.
4 — Before Saturday’s Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, the highest-ranked opponent WVU ever faced in August was No. 4 Nebraska in 1994. That, too, was a neutral-site game ... and it had a bad ending. The Huskers crushed No. 24 West Virginia 31-0 in East Rutherford, N.J.
10 — Consecutive season openers won by West Virginia. The Mountaineers haven’t dropped the regular season’s first game since 2003, when WVU traveled to Wisconsin and lost 34-17. Those Mountaineers, coached by Rich Rodriguez, had a rough 1-4 start, but reeled off seven consecutive wins to close the season and win the Big East championship.
19.3 — The average margin of victory for No. 2 ranked teams against West Virginia in program history. The Mountaineers do have two close calls, though. In 2003, the game in which running back Quincy Wilson had “The Run,” unranked West Virginia lost 22-20 at Miami. In 1982, 14th-ranked WVU nearly knocked off rival Pitt, 16-13, in Pittsburgh.
21 — The number of wins for Nick Saban and Dana Holgorsen in the first three years of their coaching career. Saban won nine games at Toledo and 12 in his first two seasons with Michigan State, while Holgorsen has won 10, seven and four games in his first three seasons at West Virginia. But while Saban hasn’t had a losing season in 17 years as a collegiate head coach, Holgorsen has one.
26.5 — Alabama is favored by nearly four touchdowns. WVU has only been the underdog by as many as 26 1/2 points three other times — all losses. The Mountaineers have never won when the underdog by three or more touchdowns (0-8 all-time). WVU won as 19.5-point home underdogs against Oklahoma State last season.
29 — The number of players on West Virginia depth chart with starting experience, ranging from offensive lineman Quinton Spain’s 26 career starts to the one career start for running back Wendell Smallwood, linebacker Wes Tonkery and defensive back Jeremy Tyler. Bandit safety Karl Joseph leads all defenders with 25 collegiate starts.
30 — If the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game meets its average attendance of 70,205, it’ll be the 30th time West Virginia has played in front of a crowd of at least 70,000. In 29 previous games in front of as many fans, the Mountaineers are 6-23 all-time. A crowd of 74,458 watched WVU defeated Georgia in the Georgia Dome in the 2005 Sugar Bowl.