It's West Virginia week here on Frogs O' War, which means that we've learned a bit of football history and marveled at the whole couch thing. West Virginia is the other newcomer to the Big 12, which means that they have exactly as much of an idea of what to expect in the Big 12 as we do- like us they come from a significantly inferior conference to the Big 12. The Big East was pretty much equal to the Mountain west in most regards- it may have more depth than the Mountain West, the Mountain West had superior teams at the top (in my opinion)- so being the defending Big East Champion just puts them in the same question mark category that I have TCU in in my head. Thankfully SBNation has the ultimate source for all things West Virginia in their blog lineup- The Smoking Musket, and their blog boss WVUIE97 was happy to answer our questions after the jump.
HawkeyedFrog: The lasting image of the West Virginia team that we saw last season was them running absolutely roughshod over Clemson in one of the biggest bowl butt-kickings of all time. That image has tended to stick with the voters heading into this season, but West Virginia wasn't a world beater week-in and week-out, dropping games to Louisville and Syracuse (we'll discount losing to LSU, who beat everyone they played at least once). Which is the West Virginia team that we're going to see in the Big 12 in 2012?
WVUIE97: I would venture to say something in between. Last years team was hampered by inadequate OL depth while still learning the Holgorsen version of the Air Raid. Repetition in the system is really what ingrains it in the players and the extra practices before the bowl really paid off (obviously). Also often overlooked in the Orange Bowl was the play of the defense and the special teams, the latter prone to many lapses through the year. New co-defensive coordinator DeForest is also known as a special teams whiz and I do expect improvements there this year. And that leads us to the defense...
HawkeyedFrog: Since Rich Rodriguez came to West Virginia the Mountaineers have consistently fielded a strong spread offense and an odd looking but highly effective 3-3-5 defense. The spread offense is there (though it could hardly be further removed from the spread and shred) but the 3-3-5 left with coordinator Jeff Casteel. What is the transition going to be like after a decade in the 3-3-5?
WVUIE97: That's the million dollar question. The new scheme is to be a 3-4/4-3 hybrid. How the transition goes remains to be seen. So far, both the coaches and players are saying the right things. The old system required experienced guys with intimate understanding of the concepts and strict adherence to responsibilities. The new system is supposed to free the guys up a bit to react more and hopefully make plays and create more turnovers. Will it? We'll find out in a couple weeks.
HawkeyedFrog: Head Coach Dana Holgorsen had a bit of a rocky ascent to the head coaching positions, but managed to put the distractions of the offseason behind him and take West Virginia to its first BCS bowl in the post Rodriguez years. What's the feeling about Holgorsen in West Virginia now and do you expect that he'll still be the coach of West Virginia in five years?
WVUIE97: Holgorsen is a bit of a rock star at this point, somewhat before, but especially after the Orange Bowl. The move to a higher profiled conference like the Big 12, I think, will help keep Coach around longer than if WVU was stuck in the Big East. Having Oliver Luck as an AD is also a big help. They work together extremely well and genuinely seem to like working with each other. As long as Luck is around, keeping Holgorsen around will remain a priority. I know they aren't worth the paper they're printed on lately, but Holgorsen did just sign an extension through 2016.
HawkeyedFrog: West Virginia was in an almost identical situation to TCU in the grand realignment chaos of the past few years- optimism about a strengthened Big East getting a great TV deal and pie in the sky dreams of picking off an ACC team or two turning into a nightmare of inaction as Pitt and Syracuse were poached and the Big East was left sitting on its hands, and we were similarly boned in most of the superconference rumors. Then the Big 12 rose from the dead yet again and provided a safe haven for us. What do you think of the current Big 12 now, do you think we should expand back to twelve teams (and if so, who gets the invites)?
WVUIE97: I'm loving the Big 12 so far. The folks I've had the chance to interact with so far have been awesome and very welcoming. While I do like the true round-robin style of season, I do think the Big 12 needs to expand back to the namesake number. I love the idea of a Florida State joining in on the fun. As for the 12th...not sure. We've all seen the names of Clemson and Georgia Tech bandied about and have also seen the Louisville factions begging to get in. Who brings the most clout and best football? That's my criteria and I'm not sure who fits that as #12.
HawkeyedFrog: TCU and West Virginia have only played once in history, in the 1984 Bluebonnet bowl. What facts and trivia about West Virginia should informed Frog fans know before we make the trip to Morgantown this season?
WVUIE97: We like our alcohol, especially, but not limited to, game-days. Wander around the stadium adjacent lots pre-game and you WILL catch a contact buzz. Most will be very friendly and don't be surprised if you're invited to partake in some of the tailgate fare. The couch burning reputation can be a bit overblown. It's not like it happens after every win...only the big ones. Get your hotels booked early (now may even be too late) as the close ones fill up within weeks of the schedule being announced. Parking is also at a premium, although there are many cash lots within a mile of the stadium area. If you can get to town a day or two early, try to hit traditional favorite spots "Mario's Fish Bowl" and "Crockett's." We're in the process of building a visitor's guide post to run in the coming days, so those are just the tip of the iceberg.
We're very curious to the atmosphere the Big 12 teams will provide when WVU travels and even bring when visiting teams come to Morgantown.
HawkeyedFrog: Finally we come to the prediction section- TCU and West Virginia have both not played in a league as deep as the Big 12, so we'll have a much better idea of what to expect of the game when it rolls around in game nine. Still, what do you think West Virginia's record will be this season and what's your pick for the TCU game? (Keep in mind the last time we played a Dana Holgorsen offense the frogs won 12-3. Which is neither here nor there, but it makes me happy to remember it).
WVUIE97: I'd love to think 11-1 or even 10-2, but with the unknowns on the defensive side for WVU, it's just too hard to predict right now. I do think the offensive struggles of a year ago will be all but gone. It's year two in the system and players understand the reality of the week to week focus must be higher than in years past when playing in the Big East. I honestly wouldn't be surprised by any record between 7-5 and 11-1 at season's end.
I'll give you the same prediction I always give when someone asks me that of a specific game that my team is involved in. 22-20 with WVU coming out on top over the Frogs.
HawkeyedFrog: If the Predictions are to be believed the Frogs are sitting at 7-2 at this point(teams that don't respond to my questions don't get a vote). I'm personally thinking 8-1, but we'll see how the season progresses. Thanks so much to WVUIE97 for answering our questions, good luck to the mountaineers this season and be sure to check out The Smoking Musket (Seriously, check it out. Not only is the coverage top tier, but they have the most thorough link posts in SBNation- sorry Dimecoverage, I still love you.).