Seven things WVU must do to win Big 12
Published: Friday, September 7, 2012
Updated: Friday, September 7, 2012 06:09
The No. 9 West Virginia football team began the 2012 season in record-setting fashion by defeating Marshall 69-34 Saturday. But for the Mountaineers to achieve their goals this season and win the Big 12 Conference Championship in their inaugural season, there are seven things that must occur.
1. The defense must make plays
The Mountaineer defense showed its youth after allowing 34 points and more than 400 yards against Marshall last week. Granted, many of those points and yards came against non-starters in the fourth quarter, but WVU will play much more powerful offenses than Marshall this season. I’m not asking the unit to shut down opposing offenses. But, the Mountaineers must force turnovers and get off the field on third down if the team wants to be successful.
2. Alston and Buie must maintain balance
Shawne Alston and Andrew Buie led a WVU rushing attack Saturday that piled up more than 300 yards. To think 300 rushing yards is something the offense is capable of achieving every week would be a bit extreme. But being able to keep defenses guessing and on its toes is crucial for the offense to reach its potential.
3. Woods has to make plays
Senior wide receiver J.D. Woods claimed all preseason camp that he was ready to make plays in 2012. The ambitious receiver did just that against Marshall. Having Woods continue to produce throughout the season will be crucial for a West Virginia team that is looking for a reliable third target to throw to after Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. It takes some of the defensive attention off receivers Austin and Bailey and gives the offense another form of balance.
4. Miller and Jenkins need to step up
Senior cornerbacks Pat Miller and Brodrick Jenkins both struggled Saturday. They were beaten consistently on deep balls by Rakeem Cato and had trouble bringing down Herd receivers. With the pass-happy Big 12 Conference in the headlights, the two defensive backs will only be tested more in conference play and must find a way to improve quickly.
5. WVU must avoid turnovers
Obviously, avoiding turnovers is something every team strives to accomplish throughout the season. But for the West Virginia football team, turnovers seem to have a little more impact on the outcome than most college football teams. In fact, the Mountaineers are 64-4 since 2002 when winning the turnover battle. If WVU wants to avoid upsets this season and compete with the upper echelon of the Big 12, it must limit giveaways.
6. Get Tavon touches
After leading the nation in all-purpose yards in 2011 and earning preseason All-America accolades this season, senior wide receiver Tavon Austin has proven himself as one of the most explosive playmakers in college football. Against Marshall, Austin returned punts and kickoffs, rushed the ball and, obviously, made receptions as a wide receiver. There were times last season when it seemed the Mountaineer offense forgot about Austin and would go lapses without getting him a touch.
This can’t happen this season if WVU wants to maintain its offensive momentum.
7. Don’t get caught up in the hype
Expectations are higher in Morgantown than they have been since 2007. Quarterback Geno Smith made the cover of Sports Illustrated, head coach Dana Holgorsen has made multiple appearances on national television, and WVU is buzzing with excitement. But the Mountaineers can’t get caught up in the hype. The team clearly has the potential to compete with any team in the country, so it must be focused on the task at hand.