Do the Mountaineers have a realistic chance in an always competitive Big 12 this season? Let's check on the futures odds and see where West Virginia stacks up.
We've looked over the college football odds on SBR's easy-to-use prop page, just to get an idea of what the Big 12 may look like this coming season.
As of now, it's not looking too good for West Virginia. The odds show the Mountaineers in seventh (out of 10 teams) in the conference when it comes to winning the Big 12 title, with the likes of TCU, Baylor, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, just to name a few, ranked ahead. You can currently find West Virginia in the +1400 to +1700 range to emerge as the conference champ.
West Virginia Mountaineers: 2014 Recap
The Mountaineers started hot in 2014, winning six of their first eight games, a run that included victories over Baylor (ranked #4 at the time) and Oklahoma State. They struggled to close out the season, however, losing three of their last four regular season matchups before falling to Texas A&M in the Liberty Bowl.
Offensive production wasn't much of an issue throughout the year, especially through the air, as West Virginia ranked ninth in the country in passing yards per game. The Mountaineers averaged 33.5 points a contest (36th-best in the country), while allowing 27.6 points a game (ranking them 74th.)
Individually, it was pretty much the Kevin White show for West Virginia, with the blazing wideout dropped 1,447 receiving yards and 10 touchdown grabs to pace the team. Mario Alford (945 yards and 11 touchdowns), while the Mountaineers adopted a running back by committee approach throughout the season.
We also saw a quarterback change midway through the season, as Skyler Howard took over the reigns and had an immediate impact on the offense. He's the clear-cut number one QB heading into 2015, though both White and Alford are now plying their trade in the NFL.
West Virginia Mountaineers: 2015 Look-Ahead
Yes, this is a very young offense that the Mountaineers will send out, but there is reason for optimism around Morgantown.
As we mentioned, the team will dearly miss its top two wideouts from last season; White and Alford combined for close to 2,500 receiving yards between them in 2014, and that's a lot of production to replace. Howard's moxie and efficiency despite his inexperience was encouraging to see last season, however, and he will have the advantage of having a solid group of backs to rely on. There's still plenty of talent within this West Virginia offense; it's just going to take time for everything to come together.
Believe it or not, we may actually see the Mountaineers' defense be the top unit in 2015. There's a lot of continuity from last year, with the defensive coordinator returning to Morgantown, along with a ton of personnel. West Virginia has a lot of depth defensively, and that's a great building block to start from for what should be a tough road in the Big 12.
All in all, we're a little more bullish on West Virginia's chances than others may be. The Mountaineers actually have a promising-looking defense to act as the foundation, and Howard showed some great things when given his chance last season.
It may take some time for the time to gel and find its stride on both sides of the football, but West Virginia could fly under the radar in 2015, thus making the college football odds much more appealing. The Mountaineers aren't being given much of a chance at all to really compete at the top in the Big 12, but we're not going to count them out of our college football picks before the season even starts; they could certainly surprise.