It’s finally here! The start of the Mountaineers’ season begins Sunday at home against rival Marshall. The meeting between these two teams is referred to as Friends of the Coal Bowl. However, there will be nothing friendly about this matchup. Last year when these two teams met it took until overtime for the Mountaineers to come out on top. This year the Mountaineers will look to shut down the Thundering Herd in regulation. With Dana Holgorsen at the Head Coaching position the Mountaineers will likely achieve this goal. Last year when these two teams faced off, Geno Smith threw for 316 yards and one touchdown and with the new offense that Holgorsen brings it could be that Smith throws for more yards and more touchdowns.
However, there are some concerns facing the Mountaineers. First off, they have lost some of their key players on offense including running back Noel Devine and wide receiver Jock Sanders. This means that junior running back Ryan Clarke will most likely be getting most of the carries and sophomore wide receiver Stedman Bailey will have to step up his game; if both he and Devine hope to fill the void left by Devine and Sanders. Another obstacle facing the Mountaineers in their first game is how well they can adjust to the new offensive system that Holgorsen has instituted. If Smith and his fellow offensive teammates can adapt to the system then they should do well against the Herd’s defense, but if they can’t then it could be a disastrous start of the season.
With the negative aspects come some positive aspects. For starters Geno Smith will airing the ball out every chance he gets and picking up big yards every possession, especially with the Air Raid offense that the Mountaineers now have. With all the hype about the offense this year some people have forgotten to mention the Mountaineers’ defense. The Mountaineers did lose Robert Sands at the safety position, but the Mountaineers should be able to fill his spot nicely. One player that will have a terrific college career will be defensive back Terrell Chestnut; while he is a freshman, Chestnut will definitely help the Mountaineers rack up sacks as well as interceptions. Lastly, how could you forget about defensive end Bruce Irvin; last year he recorded 14 sacks and one forced fumble last year. With the Thundering Herd naming Rakeem Cato, a true freshman as their starting quarterback the Mountaineers’ defense should get plenty of sacks and plenty of interceptions.
My prediction: West Virginia-34 Marshall-7
Player of the Game: Geno Smith 12-23 365 yards 3TDs, 14 rushes 12 yards
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