Discover Orange Bowl - West Virginia v Clemson

CFT Preseason Top 25: No. 8 West Virginia


2011 record: 10-3 overall, 5-2 in Big East (1st-tie)

2011 postseason: Orange Bowl (70-33 win over Clemson)

2011 final AP/coaches’ ranking: No. 17/No. 18

Head coach: Dana Holgorsen (10-3 in one season at West Virginia)

Offensive coordinator: Shannon Dawson (second season at WVU, first as OC)

2011 offensive rankings: 92nd rushing offense (122.7 ypg); 6th passing offense (346.8 ypg); 15th total offense (469.5 ypg); 13th scoring offense (37.6 ppg)

Returning offensive starters: eight

Defensive coordinator: Joe DeForest (first season as co-DC) and Keith Patterson (first season as co-DC)

2011 defensive rankings: 55th rushing defense (144.8 ypg); 35th passing defense (203.5 ypg); 33rd total defense (348.2 ypg); 61st scoring defense (26.8 ppg)

Returning defensive starters: six

Location: Morgantown, W.Va.

Stadium: Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium (60,000; FieldTurf)

Last league title: 2011 (co-champs with Cincinnati and Louisville)

Schedule: [view]

Roster: [view]

2011 statistics: [view]

The Good
At the quarterback position right now, it doesn’t get much better than Geno Smith in the game, and the senior is one of eight offensive starters returning from a unit that was one of the most explosive — hello, Clemson! — in its first season under Holgorsen.  Also among the returning starters on that side of the ball are a pair of receivers — Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey — who were seemingly born to play in Holgorsen’s version of the spread.  With experienced talent at the running back position returning as well, offense will be the least of WVU’s worries in its first season in the Big 12.

The Bad
Then there’s the opposite of the worry spectrum.  The defense was fair-to-middlin’ in the offensive-deficient Big East; entering the Big 12, the Mountaineers will face a greater challenge  nearly every week compared to what they were used to in their former conference.  As a signal that the staff was fully cognizant of both the deficiencies on defense in 2011 and the stiffer offensive competition in its new conference, WVU scrapped its 3-3-5 defense and will be going with (mostly) a version of the 3-4 defense.  Suffice to say, that new iteration of the 3-4 defense will be put to the test early and often in the offensively-superior Big 12.

The Unknown
The Big 12 fit.  Specifically, how fast can the Mountaineers get up to speed — both literally and figuratively — in a football conference that’s vastly superior to what they’ve been used to the past two decades.  Gone are the likes of Cincinnati and Louisville and Pittsburgh, replaced annually with Oklahoma and Texas and Oklahoma State and TCU and… well, you get the point.  With the presence of Holgorsen, it feels as if the Mountaineers will make as seamless a transition as possible and should be a prime contender in its virgin tour around the Big 12.  Still, it’s an unknown how quickly WVU will adapt to its new conference home.

Make-or-break game: at Texas, Oct. 6
It’s a bit of a stretch to call this a make-or-break game for the Mountaineers; rather, it might be better to state that it should serve as a litmus test for the remainder of the conference season.  The Longhorns should — should — provide a stiffer Big 12 test than they have the past couple of seasons, and give the Mountaineers a solid idea of how their first season in the Big 12 will go as it gets into the meat of their first conference slate — TCU, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma the first three weekends in November.

Heisman hopeful: quarterback Geno Smith
In his first season in Holgorsen’s offense, Smith threw for 4,385 yards, 31 touchdowns and just seven interceptions in 526 attempts.  With an experienced group of receivers returning, and yet another offseason soaking in the scheme, Smith should enter 2012 as one of the preseason favorites, although, for whatever reason, he flies below some radars nationally.

Return to CFT’s preseason Top 25

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When did Nick Saban realize he missed college football? His ‘first press conference’ in Miami

Miami Dolphins coach Nick Saban watches play   against the   Carolina Panthers   September 25, 2005 in Miami.  The Dolphins defeated the Panthers 27  to 24.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
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Yeah, he’s playing to, using the vernacular of the political season, his very fervent base, but it’s still not the least bit surprising.

When Nick Saban left LSU for the job with the Miami Dolphins in 2004, there were more than a couple of observers who were surprised the coach would leave the college game to get back into the NFL. When Saban, after infamously denying it, left the Dolphins to take the job at Alabama after just two seasons, there were more than a couple of observers who were not surprised the coach made such a decision.

Why? Because Saban just seemed like a coach who could relate better to — some would say control more — college players than those in the NFL. With Verne Lundquist serving as a guest on Saban’s weekly radio show Thursday night, the retiring college football broadcaster asked the Alabama head coach, writes, “when in his Miami Dolphins tenure he realized he missed coaching college football?”

Saban’s answer was illuminating…

“Well, the day I landed in Miami and went to the first press conference,” Saban said. “I started to realize the difference between the NFL then and what the NFL was like before when I was in it with Bill Belichick from 1991-94 in Cleveland, before we had free agency, before the media had infiltrated sorta everything that was happening. I guess right then.”

… but not as illuminating as the coach, once again, addressing his version of the Drew Brees situation as it relates to the level control, or lack thereof, in the NFL compared to what he has in Tuscaloosa.

“When [the Brees situation] happened, I said I can’t control my destiny here,” Saban said. “I can’t control my destiny here. There’s too many things that, no matter how hard I work or no matter what I do, I can control my destiny better in college by working hard and making good choices and decisions and creating a good program for players. I think that happening made me lean back to coming back to college.”

Yes, Saban may have, in the eyes of some, unfinished business in the NFL. At 64 years old — he’ll be 65 Oct. 31 — don’t expect him, though, to at any point in the near or distant future to rectify that “hole” in his coaching résumé.

Long-time starting guard ruled out by Tar Heels for rest of season

CHAPEL HILL, NC - OCTOBER 17:  Quinshad Davis #14 and Caleb Peterson #70 of the North Carolina Tar Heels celebrate after a touchdown against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons during their game at Kenan Stadium on October 17, 2015 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
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As it turns out, the short-term hit North Carolina took to its offensive line last weekend will turn into a long-turn one.

Caleb Peterson (pictured, being uplifted) suffered a back injury earlier this month that kept him out of both the Virginia Tech (Oct. 8) and Miami (Oct. 15) games. Thursday night, the school announced that the offensive lineman will undergo surgery Friday at the Carrell Clinic in Dallas.

As a result, the senior guard will miss the remainder of the 2016 season. Peterson used his redshirt in 2012 and isn’t eligible for any type of waiver, meaning the 6-5, 300-pound lineman has likely seen his collegiate playing career come to an end.

In his Tar Heel career, Peterson had started a total of 42 games. He had a streak of 30 straight starts snapped when he missed the Tech game.

Following the 2015 season, Peterson was named second-team All-ACC by the league’s coaches.

In addition to Peterson, the football program also announced that Jonathan Smith underwent season-ending surgery Thursday to repair a fracture in his right foot. The freshman linebacker initially suffered the injury during practice in the week leading up to the game against the Hokies.

A three-star member of UNC’s 2016 recruiting class, Smith was rated as the No. 21 inside linebacker in the country and the No. 25 player at any position in the state of North Carolina. He had appeared in six games as a true freshman this season, and was credited with one tackle.

Beavers dealing with injury issues in their backfield

Oregon State running back Ryan Nall, right, looks back at California cornerback Darius Allensworth, left, during an 80-yard touchdown run in the second half of an NCAA college football game in Corvallis, Ore., on Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Timothy J. Gonzalez)
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It’s looking more and more likely that Oregon State will be at less than full strength in their backfield when they line up against No. 5 Washington Saturday evening.

Leading rusher Ryan Nall aggravated a foot injury in last Saturday’s loss after just one carry and is officially listed as doubtful for the game against the Huskies. Nall did not practice Thursday and was still wearing a boot to protect the injured foot.

Additionally, Nall’s backup, Artavis Pierce, is dealing with a stinger and did not participate in the portion of practice open to the media, The Oregonian reported.

Nall currently leads the Beavers with 464 yards and six rushing touchdowns. He’s also third on the team with 13 receptions.

Pierce is second behind Nall with 262 yards.

If neither Nall nor Pierce are available, the bulk of the running game load would be shouldered by Tim Cook. The senior has carried the ball nine times this season for 22 yards.

TE Trey Dunkelberger set to transfer from Syracuse

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 08: The Syracuse Orange mascot with the cheerleaders during a game against the USC Trojans at MetLife Stadium on September 8, 2012 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
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Trey Dunkelberger changed positions earlier this year during spring practice. Seven months or so later, he’s changing programs.

The website JUCO Football Frenzy reported Wednesday that Dunkelberger had decided to transfer from Syracuse. The tight end “confirmed” the move in the form of retweeting the site’s original tweet.

The Syracuse Post-Standard subsequently confirmed the initial report via a text from the player himself, although the football program has yet to address the player’s status with the team moving forward.

Dunkelberger will be leaving the Orange as a graduate transfer, meaning he could move on to another FBS program and be eligible to play immediately in 2017. Next season will be his final year of eligibility.

After playing in one game last season, Dunkelberger has not seen the field yet on 2016. He moved from tight end to defensive end during spring practice, then back to tight end in summer camp.