MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia’s first game doesn’t figure to hold much suspense, outside of determining who opens at quarterback and whether the stadium’s new cell-signal boosters will allow fans to text “I’m bored” by the third quarter.
Junior guard Mark Glowinski is one of three new interior starters on West Virginia’s offensive line.
Alas, these typically one-sided matchups are an accepted part of the college football landscape, but WVU can benefit from a dress rehearsal before jumping into Big 12 play next week.
On this day of self-discovery, the Mountaineers have much to learn, even against an FCS-level William & Mary team that has plummeted to 7-15 the past two seasons. With only six starters returning at the positions they played last season, West Virginia is blending and shuffling personnel. That portends hiccups and moments of haziness, but will there be enough to keep this game competitive into the second half?
We’ll watch to see whether Dana Holgorsen sends out Clint Trickett or Paul Millard with the first unit. We’ll watch for how many formations utilize transfer Charles Sims and whether the rebuilt middle of the offensive line dominates. We’ll examine Isaiah Bruce shifting to one outside linebacker spot and get a glimpse of newcomer Brandon Golson manning the other. And in the secondary—oh dear, that secondary—we’ll be on customary bust-alert, watching to see if this group can begin rebuilding its reputation.
If the margin stretches out as wide as the 33.5-point line projects, Holgorsen should insert close to 60 players Saturday. That would leave WVU 11-0 all-time against FCS opponents and make this the kind of stepping-stone victory memorable more for its tailgating than the final score.
Pick: West Virginia 48, William & Mary 14
Ranking the other Big 12 games:
1. LSU 28, TCU 21: (Tigers -4) The Horned Frogs clearly mean business in this one—as denoted by the streaks of squirting blood on their helmets—but two starters bolted during preseason camp and coach Gary Patterson suspended defensive end Devonte Fields for two games. … The QB comparison is anyone’s guess, as the underwhelming Zach Mettenberger faces the sure-to-be-rusty Casey Pachall.
2. Oklahoma State 33, Mississippi State 20: (Cowboys -11.5) Methinks Mike Gundy and Holgorsen had an offseason bet to see who could keep his starting QB a secret the longest. Considering OSU kicks off 3 hours after WVU, Gundy wins by default and Holgorsen must switch from Red Bull to Snapple for a week. … MSU went 0-5 against bowl teams in 2012 (losing by a margin of three touchdowns) and 8-0 against the rest of its schedule, so this team is no threat to become the eighth straight SEC national champion.
TCU thought it cool to put blood on their uniforms before the game kicks off.
3. Texas Tech 31, SMU 24: (Red Raiders -4) The heresy of playing on Friday night in high school-crazy Texas cannot be overlooked.
4. Oklahoma 56, Louisiana-Monroe 20: (Sooners -21.5) The Hawks of War beat Arkansas last year and took Auburn to OT. Great—more fodder for Bob Stoops to rip on “SEC propaganda.”
5. Kansas State 27: North Dakota State 16: (Wildcats -13.5) K-State sees a mirror image in the two-time defending FCS national champs, but it’s a slightly smaller, slightly slower image.
6. Iowa State 28, Northern Iowa 13: (Cyclones -9.5) Odds-makers haven’t forgotten how two short seasons ago the FCS Panthers lost by a point in Ames after ISU scored twice in the final five minutes.
7. Texas 52, New Mexico State 10: (Longhorns -43) The Aggies are dreadful, but given the way fans have soured on Mack Brown, you’d think Texas was the team that went 1-12 last season.
8. Baylor 44, Wofford 17: (Bears -30.5) Like NDSU, Wofford was an FCS playoff team in 2012. Wonder how much time Baylor devoted to defending the Terriers’ wingbone considering that’s not exactly the modus operandi in the Big 12?