MYERS: Like much of 2020, WVU will look different
Like nearly everything else in our lives in 2020, this college football season will look much different. Schedules are shortened, fans are either not permitted or numbers substantially limited, and Covid protocals risk disruptions. And to think we used to joke about the long Route 50 drives back from Morgantown. Now we just hope to be able to make the drive at all.
With no spring practice and shortened season preparation, it is more important than ever to have reliability at the quarterback position and West Virginia appears solid there with Jarret Doege, who started the final four games of the 2019 season and performed well. The biggest question mark will be the offensive line, which was abysmal last year and lost an offensive tackle drafted by the NFL. A peek at the depth chart reveals a lot of shuffling, and the hope is that coaches have found the right combination. But as we have said here many times over the years, if a team cannot control the line of scrimmage it is difficult to be successful, so this remains an area of concern. Only when Big 12 Conference play begins will we be able to assess whether there has been improvement.
The West Virginia defense improved dramatically last season, and was instrumental in enabling the Mountaineers to achieve two upsets in November road games to finish at 5-7. The front seven appears to be a strength in 2020, but there are question marks in the secondary. It also must be noted that WVU did not retain its defensive coordinator.
Trying to predict how a season will play out in these unusual times is more guesswork than analysis. Some coaching staffs and players will adapt better than others. Some teams will be more disciplined in following the Covid protocals and perhaps some won’t. When players test positive, this may also require quarantine of players who were exposed. As an example, Tennessee was unable to have a scrimmage this past Saturday because 44 players were unable to participate, even though only 7-8 represented positive test results. TCU has already postponed its scheduled game on September 11th vs SMU.
Under Big 12 rules, if a team has at least 53 players, 7 offensive linemen, and a single quarterback able to play, they must take the field. So a team which otherwise might be strongly favored could conceivably be at a disadvantage any given week.
The Mountaineers certainly aren’t burdened by any high expectations, as most prognosticators place them 8th or 9th in the league. I think they can do a bit better and finish with a 5-5 record which means, of course, that if WVU has either a winning or losing season I will be wrong.
THIS SATURDAY: There will be an empty stadium as Eastern Kentucky comes to Morgantown to open the season. The good news for the Colonels is that they will already have one game under their belt. The bad news is that they lost to Marshall 59-0.
WEST VIRGINIA 52
EASTERN KENTUCKY 7.
This column will pause next week and return Monday, September 21 prior to the Big 12 opener.