The WVU Mountaineers football team is certainly ready to start preparing for next season. After a forgettable 2019, second-year coach Neal Brown and his squad want to get back out on the playing field.
Of course, the start date for this upcoming season is in jeopardy due to COVID-19. While some of the country, including West Virginia, is beginning to open businesses back up, there are still lots of questions around live sporting events.
Although other sports are still trying to figure out the safest plan of action, college football has some time. WVU’s season is currently slated to start on Sept. 5 against Florida State.
Along with football fans in the Mountain State, WV sportsbooks are very hopeful that the college season starts on time. Betting revenue figures have plummeted since the nation entered quarantine protocol.
Even though the Mountaineers aren’t ranked in ESPN’s Way-Too-Early Top 25, expectations are high in Morgantown. The team is looking to greatly improve on its 5-7 record and get back to being contenders in the Big 12 Conference.
Last season was definitely a struggle, but the team performed much better down the stretch. Following a five-game losing streak, WVU won two of its final three games.
While those victories didn’t do anything to change the fortunes of last year, it was a step in the right direction. The coaching staff and fan base are hoping it was a preview of what’s to come in 2020.
Let’s take a deeper look at WVU’s outlook and how the team might fare in coach Brown’s second campaign.
With a 3-6 record through mid-November, the Mountaineers decided to make a change at quarterback. This move paid off tremendously as they ended the season on a high note.
Although junior Jarret Doege wasn’t unstoppable, he provided a spark the team was missing with Austin Kendall.
WVU proceeded to defeat No. 24 Kansas State and TCU on the road. Its only failure with Doege under center was a seven-point loss to No. 21 Oklahoma State.
In total, Doege completed almost 66% of his passes for over 800 yards and seven touchdowns down the stretch.
While Doege has all of the momentum on his side this offseason, he isn’t a lock to be the starter next year. Kendall will be back, along with guys like Trent Jackson and Trey Lowe III.
It’s tough to tell how much practice time players will actually get before the season starts, but a quarterback competition is never a bad thing. Coach Brown will have multiple quality options to be his signal-caller.
One aspect of this year’s team that needs to improve is its running game. Both quarterbacks were asked to do too much in order to win.
Despite the fact that team rushing stats are slightly skewed because of negative sack yards, WVU struggled last year.
As a whole, the Mountaineers rushed for less than 1,000 total yards in 12 games. They ran 334 times for 879 yards, an average of just 2.6 yards per carry.
Fortunately, WVU returns its leading rusher from a year ago in Leddie Brown. He led the team in rushing in six games and accumulated 367 yards for the season.
It won’t be easy, but the Mountaineers have a lot of pieces in place to help make 2020 a much more memorable season.
College Football’s Top-Ranked Teams
Even if WVU exceeds all expectations next year, it probably won’t be in the picture to qualify for the College Football Playoff. It could have a very productive season and make a bowl game, but the Mountaineers are still a few years away.
When looking at the national picture, a lot of familiar teams are at the top of the rankings. Here is ESPN’s top three heading into the preseason:
The Tigers have been one of the best programs over the last decade. They’ve made the playoff in each of the last five seasons.
Even though they lost plenty of players to the NFL in the draft, the Tigers are again among the best teams.
Clemson’s biggest strength is with its offensive playmakers. Quarterback Trevor Lawrence is a Heisman frontrunner and likely the top pick in next year’s draft.
Running back Travis Etienne is no slouch, either. He totaled over 2,000 yards from scrimmage a season ago.
With the ACC Conference not as strong as some others, it would be very surprising if Clemson isn’t back competing for a title.
2. Ohio State
Another team that’s been a stalwart in college football recently is the Ohio State Buckeyes. Not coincidentally, they also have one of the best quarterbacks in the country.
Justin Fields was spectacular last season, leading OSU to the CFP. The Buckeyes went undefeated until the playoff when they just narrowly lost to Clemson.
Like the Tigers, Ohio State will feel some effects from losing studs like Chase Young and Jeff Okudah. However, it always finds a way to be among the best teams with loaded recruiting classes yearly.
The Big 10 Conference is much more competitive than the ACC, but it still shouldn’t matter. Unless the injury bug happens to strike in Columbus, the Buckeyes will most likely be in contention at the end of the year.
Last season was the first time Alabama missed the CFP in six years. That probably doesn’t bode well for the rest of the nation and the SEC West.
A motivated Nick Saban will have his guys ready to go from the start, even with a lot of new players.
The most notable change will be at QB since Tua Tagovailoa took his talents to the next level. Junior Mac Jones and freshman Bryce Young will compete for the starting position.
Whoever wins the job will have more than enough help around him. Receiver DeVonta Smith and running back Najee Harris are explosive options. Both players accounted for more than 1,200 yards in 2019.
The Tide’s inexperience at quarterback could haunt them in the end, but they are likely to have a great year and return to the playoff.
College Football Futures At WV Sportsbooks
Retail sportsbooks might be closed still, but that doesn’t stop you from placing wagers on any of the online sports betting apps in WV. They include:
College football futures are available, along with a lot of other markets, as well. Currently, DraftKings features the following odds for WVU football next season:
Win National Championship
- WVU +15000
Make College Football Playoff
- WVU +4000
Win Big 12 Conference
- WVU +2500
Regular Season Win Total
- Over 6 (-103)
- Under 6 (-120)