College football players will be reporting to fall camps in only a little more than a month, so it’s time to start addressing some 2012 NCAA props the books are releasing. A few months ago, I did an early look at defending national champion Alabama. Here is a glance at West Virginia along with some predictions for the upcoming season. The Mountaineers enter the Big 12 this year and are a dark horse national title team with a legitimate Heisman candidate in quarterback Geno Smith.
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Under first-year Head Coach Dana Holgorsen, the former architect of that potent Oklahoma State offense, the Mountaineers were an offensive powerhouse last year in winning the Big East title. That offense was very much on display in the Orange Bowl against Clemson as WVU embarrassed the Tigers, 70-33, to finish 10-3. Smith was 32-for-43 for 407 yards and tied the record for any bowl game with six touchdown passes (he added a rushing score), and the Mountaineers set a bowl scoring record against the ACC champs. The 35 points scored by West Virginia in the second quarter – Clemson actually led 17-14 entering the quarter – also was the most points scored in any quarter in a bowl game as was the 49 points in the half.
Smith set a school and Big East single-season record with 4,385 yards passing, along with school records for completions and attempts (yet somehow wasn’t named Big East Offensive Player of the Year); Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey each went over 1,000 yards receiving; and West Virginia averaged 459.6 yards of total offense while scoring an average of 34.9 points -- nine points higher than in 2010.
The offense should be stacked again with Smith, Austin, Bailey and leading rusher Dustin Harrison, who is working his way back from a major knee injury suffered in practices before the Orange Bowl, among eight returning starters. The defense loses stud end Bruce Irvin and his eight sacks as well as linebacker and leading tackler Najee Goode but brings back six players (both kickers return). WVU will switch from a 3-3-5 base defense to a 3-4 under new co-defensive coordinators Keith Patterson and Joe DeForest. Sitting in a 3-3-5 in the pass-happy Big 12 was probably a recipe for disaster anyways and a 3-4 should bring more pressure on the quarterbacks.
Look for the 2012 team to dedicate its season to former Coach Bill Stewart, who died in May. Stewart was supposed to coach the team last year but was essentially forced out when he allegedly asked a beat reporter to dig up dirt on Holgorsen, who had been named offensive coordinator and head coach-in-waiting for 2012.
West Virginia Mountaineers 2012 College Football Prop Odds
At 5Dimes, the Mountaineers are +3800 to win their first BCS Championship – they are 3-0 in BCS bowls – and +575 fourth-favorites to win the Big 12 title in their first season. The Mountaineers’ ‘over/under’ for total wins (non-bowl) is 8.5, with the ‘over’ a slight -130 favorite. WVU opened as a 23-point home favorite over in-state rival Marshall in the teams’ opener on Sept. 1. Smith, meanwhile, is +825 to win the Heisman and +240 to finish in the Top 3
2012 West Virginia Mountaineers Props Predictions
Needless to say, West Virginia is going to be taking a major step up in competition heading from the Big East to the Big 12. Instead of beating up on the likes of UConn or Rutgers or Syracuse (actually the Orange beat WVU pretty soundly in 2011), now West Virginia plays at Texas, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State in 2012 and home vs. Oklahoma, TCU and Kansas State.
Looking at the West Virginia football schedule, the Mountaineers should be able to start 4-0 with nonconference wins over Marshall (WVU won at home vs. the Herd last year by 21 but I’d give the points here), James Madison and Maryland. The Mountaineers’ first Big 12 game is at home vs. a Robert Griffin-less Baylor club before back-to-back roadies at Texas and Texas Tech (that game could end 70-68!). Four of the final six are at home: Kansas State, TCU, the Sooners and Kansas. The other road trips are to semi-rebuilding OSU and Iowa State.
From a casual look, I only see WVU as a lock underdog at the Horns (they should be vastly improved) and home vs. OU if there are no major injuries. That TCU game could go either way. But I love the over 8.5 wins as nine looks easily attainable. I don’t think that the Mountaineers will win the Big 12, but the fact they do get Oklahoma and the Frogs in Morgantown probably makes it worth rolling the dice at that price. I think a BCS Championship is probably a pipe dream – maybe if the four-team playoff was this year and not in 2014.
As for Smith, he obviously will get a lot more publicity in the better league in 2012. But I just can’t see him getting enough to beat out Matt Barkley (the favorite), Denard Robinson or Landry Jones, presuming Jones bounces back from a down 2011. I would take the +240 that Smith gets his invite to New York and banks a Top-3 finish.
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