OSU football: Cowboys will face friendly fire from West Virginia
Coach Dana Holgorsen and several assistants are quite familiar with OSU and the Big 12.
Early Look: West Virginia
2011 Record: 10-3.
Bowl: Clobbered Clemson, 70-33, in the Orange Bowl, where the Mountaineers broke several team and bowl records, including an Orange Bowl-best six touchdown passes by quarterback Geno Smith.
Returning starters: 16 (nine offense, seven defense).
Top players: Smith has directed WVU to 19 wins as a starter and is coming off a 2011 season in which he set a school and Big East record with 4,384 passing yards, throwing for 31 touchdowns. Wideouts Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey each topped the 1,000-yard mark receiving, combining for 20 TD grabs.
Reason to believe: The offense figures to be deadly, with a year to grow in coach Dana Holgorsen's system. The conference schedule is favorable, with five home games featuring some the league's top teams: OU, TCU, Kansas State and Baylor.
Reason to doubt: The weekly grind of the Big 12 will be a steep upgrade from the Big East. And the defense must prove better than it was a year ago, when it allowed 47, 49 and 38 points in losses to LSU, Syracuse and Louisville.
And under Holgorsen, they'll tote along a significant amount of swagger and confidence.
“I've won a lot of games at those different venues,” he said in the spring, “and lost some big games at some of those venues.”
These Mountaineers are built to win.
Nine of the starters are back on offense — Holgorsen's specialty — including Heisman candidate Geno Smith and a pair of wideouts in Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey who have already been tabbed as First Team Preseason All-Big 12 by Phil Steele.
West Virginia should only be better offensively in Year 2 under Holgorsen, frightening considering they were one of only two teams to produce a 4,000-yard passer and two 1,000-yard receivers a year ago, when they set a school record with 6,104 total yards.
“It's going to make a lot more sense to us now,” Holgorsen said.
If there are questions, it's on defense, although the Mountaineers improved steadily with a young unit throughout 2011. The rest is on DeForest, who is ditching the 3-3-5 stack defense that was a staple at WVU for a more aggressive 3-4.
And DeForest is stressing turnovers — sound familiar? — with his defense producing four in the spring game.
In all, 12 Mountaineers were named to Steele's four-deep All-Big 12 teams. The schedule isn't bad, with road games at Texas, Texas Tech, OSU and Iowa State, meaning they get Baylor, Kansas State, TCU and OU in Morgantown, along with Kansas.
Stand alerted Cowboys fans, some old friends are coming… with ill intent.
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