West Virginia Preview 2006

Posted Aug 1, 2006

Everyone take a big, deep breath when it comes to all the rush of Mountaineer love out there. Remember, we've been through this before.

Offense | Defense | Depth Chart | Further Analysis

West Virginia has been the fashionable preseason national title pick before by many, mostly because of one or two game schedules coinciding with a decent, veteran team, but this year's version is seen as something different. It's exciting, it's experienced, and yes, there's the one or two game schedule that makes it easy to get fired up about the possibilities. 

However, don't forget that in the recent history of West Virginia football, when the glaring spotlight was on, this program has only played one half of amazing football and had mega-problems every other time the world was watching.

The second half of last year's Sugar Bowl once Georgia realized it had to start playing, the three previous bowl games (all losses), the 1994 Sugar Bowl, the 1989 Fiesta Bowl, the 2-11 bowl record since 1987 ... let's just wait and see a little bit before really thinking West Virginia can get the job done when it has to deal with expectations and pressure.

Head coach: Rich Rodriguez
6th year: 39-22
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 25, Def. 24, ST 2
Lettermen Lost: 19
Ten Best WVU Players
1. RB Steve Slaton, Soph.
2. QB Pat White, Soph.
3. C Dan Mozes, Sr.
4. LB Kevin McLee, Sr.
5. SS Eric Wicks, Sr.
6. LB Jay Henry, Sr.
7. FB Owen Schmitt, Jr.
8. OG Ryan Stanchek, Soph.
9. LB Marc Magro, Jr.
10. WR Darius Reynaud, Jr.

2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 10-2

9/2 Marshall
9/9 Buffalo
9/14 Maryland
9/23 at East Carolina
10/7 at Miss State
10/14 Syracuse
10/20 at Connecticut
11/2 at Louisville
11/11 Cincinnati
11/16 at Pitt
11/25 South Florida
12/2 Rutgers

2005 Schedule
CFN Prediction: 7-4
2005 Record:
Preview 2005 predicted wins

9/3 at Syracuse W 15-7
9/10 Wofford W 35-7
9/17 at Maryland W 31-19
9/24 East Carolina W 20-15
10/1 Virginia Tech L 34-17
10/8 at Rutgers W 27-14
10/15 Louisville W 46-44 3OT
11/2 Connecticut W 45-13
11/9 at Cincinnati W 38-9
11/24 Pittsburgh W 45-13
12/6 at South Florida W 28-13
1/2 Sugar Bowl
Georgia W 38-35

However, things appear to be different this time around. Those past teams were above-average and didn't really play anyone. This team is the real deal, and it doesn't play anyone.

There's no more exciting backfield tandem in America than quarterback Pat White and running back Steve Slaton. The offensive line that flat-out pantsed the Georgia defensive line in the Sugar Bowl should be almost as good this season. The underrated and unnoticed defense should be fantastic up front, and the kicking game should grow into one of the best in the country with two terrific young specialists.

But this is West Virginia.

In 2004 when Miami and Virginia Tech left the Big East, Rasheed Marshall and the boys were supposed to make a sleeper run for the national title game. It blew it's shot at the BCS by losing to Pitt in the regular-season finale and finished 8-4. Can this program actually get the job done when people are paying attention and when it's expected to win?

All West Virginia has to do is win, keep winning, and do what it did last year, and then all doubters will believe.

Sort of.

This my be a top ten-caliber team, but it's not good enough to get through the ACC, SEC, Big Ten, Pac 10, or Big 12 South without two losses. While other national title contenders are playing other big boys, West Virginia plays three teams that went to bowls last year, and two of them are South Florida and Rutgers. You'll have to forgive fans of Florida, Texas, Ohio State, LSU, USC, and Notre Dame if they're going to scream and yell in the debate about who deserves what at the end of the year.

If West Virginia wants to sit at the adult table and be considered a real national title team, then it has to blow (almost) everyone out this year. A real national title-caliber team wins every game on this schedule in a walk except for ...

The Schedule: ... November 2nd at Louisville. Oh sure, Maryland, Connecticut, and Pitt should be better, but come on. If those are three of your four toughest games, you know this has to be your year. Outside of the battle with the Cardinals for the Big East title and the Backyard Brawl against the Panthers, the road slate is a joke playing at East Carolina, Mississippi State and Connecticut. Potentially dangerous games against Syracuse, South Florida and Rutgers are at home.

Best Offensive Player: Sophomore RB Steve Slaton. It just goes to show what a bunch of hooey the recruiting world is. It's not that Slaton wasn't considered a good prospect, but he certainly didn't come with the credentials of a freshman superstar and potential Heisman candidate. He was fantastic in the two biggest games of the year (Louisville and Georgia) showing a breathtaking blend of speed and power. Anything less than 1,500 yards this year will be a disappointment.

Best Defensive Player: Senior LB Kevin McLee. "Boo" is one of the Big East's most productive all-around defensive players. He's built like a smallish defensive end, but he moves like a safety. As the leader of a fantastic linebacking corps, he should be a lock for All-Big East honors again.

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore QB Pat White. One of the nation's best running quarterbacks should be an improved passer after struggling a bit last year with his consistency. He not only has to be a bit more productive if the Mountaineers want to take the next step, but he also has to be durable with top backup Adam Bednarik having problems with an injured shoulder.

The season will be a success if ... West Virginia plays for the national title. It'll be favored in every game but one. Good teams dream about having a schedule like the one the Mountaineers have this season, but it'll have to get by ...

Key game: November 2nd at Louisville. It's the Big East version of Oklahoma vs. Texas, Ohio State vs. Michigan, and this year, Notre Dame vs. USC. The winner will likely be the Big East champion, and if things break like they're supposed to, and the Cardinals win the home game against Miami, it will be for an unbeaten regular season and a shot at the BCS title.

2005 Fun Stats: 
First quarter scoring: West Virginia 98 - Opponents 30
- Rushing yards: West Virginia 3,536 - Opponents 1,668
- Fumbles: Opponents 35 (lost 14) - West Virginia 18 (lost 10)

The Last Time West Virginia…
…played in a bowl game…2005 (Sugar Bowl vs. Georgia)
…missed a bowl game…2001
…pitched a shutout…2005 (Cincinnati)
…was shutout…2001 (Virginia Tech)
…scored 50 points…2004 (East Carolina)
…went undefeated…1922
…won a conference title…2005 (Big East)
…had a 3,000-yard passer…1998 (Marc Bulger)
…had a 1,000-yard rusher…2005 (Steve Slaton)
…had a 1,000-yard receiver…2003 (Chris Henry)
…had a first-round draft choice…2005 (CB Adam Jones)

Related Stories
West Virginia Preview 2006 - Further Analysis
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 1, 2006
West Virginia Preview 2006 - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 1, 2006
West Virginia Preview 2006 - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 1, 2006

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