I’m sure the headline does not surprise you, ESPN never seems to show West Virginia much love regardless of the sport, but this time I think it is a tad bit disrespectful. I do not want to bash ESPN completely because they are not the only source that has us hovering around the 5-6 win mark, but they are the largest media outlet out there. I will say I am unsure if these percentages have been updated since the announcement of the Will Grier suspension being lifted, but it does not look like that’s the case.
The ESPN FPI has the Mountaineers favored in only five games. Yes you read that right, FIVE GAMES (ECU, Deleware St, Kansas, Texas Tech and Iowa State). This means we are projected to lose 7 games coming against Virginia Tech, @ TCU, @ Baylor, Oklahoma State, @ Kansas St, Texas and @ Oklahoma.
The most interesting takeaway from the FPI is how heavily favored they have TCU, Baylor and Texas over WVU.
I have been saying since spring that I believe TCU is still a couple years away from returning to what they were a few years ago. Patterson is a great coach who can recruit, but you just cannot sell me on Kenny Hill at this point.
Baylor is a tricky one, as is the series history between the two. There has been upsets, blowouts, tight games, you name it. We have literally seen it all with the boys from Waco. The home team has one every game since West Virginia has joined the conference but with a slew of new coaches at the helm for Baylor I can’t see how they are favored so highly.
The matchup with Texas is the one that gets me the most, if you follow me on twitter I am sure you probably came across my little rant about them the other day. I get it, Tom Herman brings some flash and hope to the program, but for a team who has not had a winning season since 2013, just can not be favored in Morgantown in my opinion. For those thinking Texas is “back” I hate to be the bear of bad news but it will be awhile.
Do I believe the FPI is fairly accurate? Yes, I do to some extent, but not entirely. It seems like everyone’s excuse for why they have West Virginia winning 5-6 games is due to us having to replace so much on defense, the offensive line and losing our top two receivers. All of that is understandable, but this is not Tony Gibson’s first rodeo. He has had to replace 7-8 starters two years in a row and has done a fine job. Losing Daikiel Shorts Jr. and Shelton Gibson does hurt, but the Mountaineers have a plethora of options with Sills, Jennings, White, Durante, etc. The o-line is definitely an area I am concerned about especially when you lose that much production up front.
For a team coming off a 10-win season I find it hard to drop clear down to 5 wins the following year unless there is a complete depletion of the roster. Of course the defense is young but there are plenty of guys with game experience and who have seen a ton of snaps. The amount of skill set on the offensive side of the ball does not look like a team that can only scrounge up a handful of wins. I would be willing to bet that you can’t find a better backfield in the Big 12 over West Virginia, not to mention all of the hype surrounding junior quarterback, Will Grier.
By the end of the month I will have another article with my own percetanges of the entire 2017 season that will include predictions of all games. Note that my percentages may change for various reasons, but will do my best to compile my research. Until then, send us your thoughts and comments on the projections of West Virginia’s season by ESPN’s Football Power Index.