EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the latest in a series of articles by Jim Butta, a veteran sports writer for The Parkersburg News and Sentinel, who has served as the beat writer for the Mountaineers.
The analysis is a compilation of research done on each opponent West Virginia will face during the 2012 season.
Much of the information comes from the team's spring prospectus as well as stories written about the program during, and after, its spring drills.
Iowa State Cyclones
Making matters worse will be playing host to a WVU squad that is the No. 2 overall pick behind Oklahoma before ever playing a game in the Big 12.
Should be a great match up featuring a solid defense led by co-Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year A.J. Klein and WVU's Geno Smith.
Offense: The good news is that nine starters return to this unit, including quarterbacks Jared Barnett and Steele Jantz as well as running back James White and wide receiver Josh Lenz.
The bad news is the offense ranked ninth in the conference, 90th nationally, in points scored (22.7) and eighth in total offense (386.5 ypg).
Jantz put up the bigger numbers (138-of-259, 1,519 yards, 10 touchdowns, 11 interceptions) during the season, but Barnett came out of spring drills at the top of the depth chart at the position.
White, who rushed for 743 yards and eight touchdowns on 159 carries, and Lenz (39-510, 2 TD), are proven weapons, but the remainder of the unit appears to be a work in progress.
The front five appear to be solid with the return of center Tom Farniok, left guard Ethan Tuftee and right tackle Brayden Burris.
Defense: Klein, who led the team with 116 tackles (66 solo), is the heart and soul of the unit and will again team up with senior Jake Knott to give the Cyclones one of the best linebacking tandems in the Big 12, if not nationally.
The rest of the defense, however, needs some help as senior nose guard Jake McDonough is the only returnee up front while the secondary brings back senior Jeremy Reeves at cornerback and junior Jacques Washington at free safety.
Specialists: Kirby Van Der Kamp is in his third year as the punter and is one of the league's best, averaging 42.7 yards per punt with 21 coming to rest inside the opposition's 20-yard line.
True freshman Cole Netten is expected to be the starting placekicker, but after watching their kickers make good on only 12-of-20 field goals, Cyclones fans will have to keep their fingers crossed and eyes closed when that unit takes to the field.
Outlook: Defensively, ISU may possess one of the best units the Mountaineers will face in 2012. However, much of the focus this year will revolve around the offense, especially at quarterback.
Of course, whichever quarterback gets the job, he will only be as good as the players around him. And, while, the Cyclones will have a solid group of players to compliment their signal-callers, none of them will be on the same level as players from some of the Big 12's elite programs WVU included.
The Mountaineer coaches must be on "upset alert" when the team heads to Jack Trice Stadium, especially coming off of back-to-back-to-back contests against TCU, Oklahoma State and Oklahoma.
The offense has potential, and the defense over the years has made up for its limited number of difference-makers with great schemes and timely stops in the red zone.
Series: First meeting between the schools.