There’s no exact science to predicting a team’s record. The most knowledge “experts” have been wrong about WVU football countless times before. Anything can happen once the ball is kicked off.
With all of that said, the 2023 season is here and it’s time to really look at realistic possibilities for the West Virginia Mountaineers this season.
If everything goes right, how good can it get? What’s the ceiling for this WVU team? But if doomsday happens and things unravel like most are expecting, could this season go down as one of the worst in program history? What’s the floor for Neal Brown’s team in his fifth season as head coach in Morgantown?
Let’s start with the floor since it’s more obvious. It’s very possible the inexperience of Garrett Greene and then Nicco Marchiol, who would undoubtedly see plenty of time under center if the season goes completely down the drain again, are too much for WVU to overcome. If the quarterback struggles, that might be enough right there to ruin the season. But plenty more could go wrong too.
It’s possible every player, most notably on defense, expected to step up by the coaches fails to reach those expectations. It’s possible the defense is without a star to rely on and the overall unit lacks the necessary depth to allow the Mountaineers to stay in games. It’s possible the defense once again fails to convert takeaways and West Virginia loses the turnover battle game after game.
It’s possible the offense’s strength on the ground and the stacked running back room just isn’t enough. WVU did run well last year and the end result was a 5-7 record for the team. It’s possible Devin Carter never shows he can be a true WR1. It’s possible Kole Taylor’s size doesn’t matter and he never becomes the passing catching tight end he’s been hyped to be.
It’s possible Brown’s play calling fails to bring the aggressiveness fans want to see. It’s possible Brown gets out-coached in big games and overthinks himself in critical moments. It’s possible the bad luck leads to injuries like it did last year with CJ Donaldson.
I could go on and on and on. It’s actually even possible West Virginia plays better in 2023 than in 2022, but the difficult schedule is too much to handle and the wins just aren’t possible no matter what.
It’s all in play and it’s possible things could get really bad. But if history means anything and if we even look to last year, WVU will catch a couple teams napping, the FCS win is there and teams believed to be good will get exposed. So as funny as the predictions that WVU will win only 1 or 2 games are, that’s just sensationalizing the situation.
For context, the last time West Virginia, who holds the distinction as the 15th winningest program ever in college football history, won less than four games was Rich Rodriguez’s first season in 2001. The worst most recent season is Dana Holgorsen going 4-8 in 2013, which was the only year he won less than seven games.
While it’s possible everything goes wrong and everything said above occurs, it is also possible what needs to go right could right.
For WVU to have a winning season and save Brown’s job, Greene needs to play smart, not allow the mistakes to snowball and electrify the offense for big plays. For WVU to have a winning season, the defense has to get back to where it was prior to 2022 under Brown and Jordan Lesley and not completely break, even if it has to bend at times. The defense also has to come up with a couple momentum shifting turnovers of their own. I said it before, but a winning season means key interception from Aubrey Burks and Beanie Bishop. Others like Cortez Braham surprise people and really step up.
A winning season likely means claiming Backyard Brawl revenge and beating Pitt. It may even mean upsetting TCU on the road, a prediction some are suggestion based on how close the matchup was last year. This likely means winning your home games in conference play and maybe even taking care of business on the road against Brown’s predecessor Holgorsen and Houston.
But even if the ball bounces West Virginia’s way more this season and some of the questions looming over the team have positives answers, the schedule is brutal and that creates a ceiling in and of itself. I know some are saying eight if everything I detailed happens, and I did think about it for a second, a split second, but I am still leaning seven as the high win total for WVU.
FYI: A 7-5 season, and probably even a 6-6 year with a bowl appearance, will earn Brown more time to get the Mountaineers climbing.
Nothing from the worst season in over 20 years to a winning enough for Brown to stick around would surprise me, to be honest. And it’s tough to be too confident, but I am going with 6-6 off a gut feeling that West Virginia squeaks out the exact type of back and forth season that makes for the most polarizing offseason possible. A losing season means a head coaching search and those who throw it all on Brown can at least be happy about moving on. A bad year means Wren Baker will get to put his own stamp on WVU football and hire his guy.
A winning season may actually create some excitement, kinda like what occurred after the 2020 season and Liberty Bowl win. Most importantly, seven or more wins could cause an uptick in money deposited into the NIL bank and some optimism about the future in a new Big 12 as the all-time winningest blue blood program in the new version of the conference.
But 6-6 will lead to some pointing to Brown’s record still firmly under .500 and uncertainty and arguing he’s just not met the standard. That is how much each and every game matters for Brown and West Virginia this season, arguably one of the most important years in recent memory.
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