Nothing like good mystery

Everyone, it is said, loves a mystery.

If that is indeed the case, then no college football team should be more loved this fall than West Virginia University.

I’ve been writing about and predicting the outcome of Mountaineer seasons and games for decades, but I’ve never been this indecisive regarding a season that will begin in six weeks.

If last year taught us nothing else, it is that preseason expectations -no matter how high they are -don’t necessarily translate to on-field success. The Mountaineers began the season as a top 10 team and prominently were mentioned as a national title contender. But they lost six times, including a season-ending embarrassing setback to long-time rival Syracuse in the Pinstripe Bowl.

There are no great expectations this year. WVU won’t be nationally ranked. It likely won’t get a single point in any of the preseason polls. The consensus is the Mountaineers will be a Big 12 also-ran battling with Kansas and Iowa State to stay out of the league’s cellar.

Yet, just as WVU disappointed us all last year, it may surprise us this season.

I learned a long time ago that you must let every season play itself out. That no one really knows what is going to happen in any game or what will take place during the course of a 12-game season.

Obviously, the day WVU became a member of the Big 12, the quality of its opponents rose to a level the Big East couldn’t match. So one of the major factors in determining the level of a team’s success now works against the Mountaineers, which must face the likes of Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Kansas State on an annual basis.

Does West Virginia have the quality to play with such teams? I’m not sure we know. The Mountaineers must replace so many players on offense, it’s frightening, especially when you consider among those no longer in Morgantown are Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey.

But any team that has Dana Holgorsen for a head coach likely will have a high-powered quick-strike offense that scores points in bunches. Still, without knowing who many of the key starters will be, even that remains to be seen.

Defensively, West Virginia should be improved. If it’s not, then we have a pretty good idea how things will go. WVU isn’t the type of team that is going to record shutouts. But if the defense can produce a few three-and-outs and turnovers, the offense should be able take care of what is necessary to win.

Even special teams is a question mark, meaning they could be outstanding, horrible or in-between those two extremes.

This is one of those years when WVU could have a winning, break-even or losing season, and none would be a major surprise, although the lattter would be a disappointment.

If you love a mystery, you should love Mountaineer football.