With a 4-0 start and ranked in the Top 25, can WVU pull it off? Can they challenge for the Big 12 title? As we have learned, ‘All things are possible.’ There are obviously some remaining rough edges that must be overcome in order for it to happen.
At the start of the season WVU’s defense was in question after losing many of last years starters. I see something in this year’s defense I didn’t see last year, and that is grit and a never say die fighting attitude.
I am especially impressed with the play of the defensive backs, for I consider this group to be more talented overall than last season. The 2016 players are better at one-on-one coverage, but they appear to be lacking at linebacker. They seem to struggle with stopping running quarterbacks.
This defense does a good job at getting pressure on quarterbacks, but they fail to finish. The primary problem areas are quarterback sacks, and take-always. The addition of David Long at LB may improve both of these stats. His additional playing time could also assist the effectiveness of the defensive ends.
There is also greater depth on this year’s defense. If this defense continues to improve they could potentially finish as one of the best in the nation.
WVU’s offensive backfield is loaded. The offensive line may be the Achilles-heel for this team. At the beginning of the season the OL was considered to be one of the best in college football. K-State proved how porous the offensive line can be, as they kept pressure on Skyler Howard and sacked him 3-times.
WVU must have better play from the OL and the tight-ends to continue winning. Hopefully, K-State embarrassed them enough that they will work hard to improve their technique.
There are those who believe WVU’s defense will crack and cost WVU a couple of games. If it happens, I believe the crack may instead come either due to poor tackling on special teams and/or the effectiveness of the OL.
That is one area WVU cannot afford to have additional injuries, for this is where WVU has the least depth.
Another weak part of this WVU team is the punt/kick return game. The blocking for punt and kick returners has improved over recent years, but not enough to make a difference. WVU return teams have still failed to improve enough to be a game changer.
Despite these areas of concern, the struggles of the other Big 12 teams this season could open the door just wide enough for WVU to slip in and challenge for the conference title.