MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — In what has become an exhaustive rite of summer, USA Today is counting down its worst-to-first FBS team rankings.
Today brought West Virginia … at No. 78, out of 128 schools. (For those scoring at home, that’s only a notch ahead of No. 79 Buffalo and who knows how far behind a certain school in Huntington that hasn’t surfaced yet.)
As alarming as that projection sounds, such is the tainted runoff from a 4-8 season that featured embarrassing losses to Kansas and Iowa State.
Among the not-so-gentle zingers lining columnist Paul Myerberg’s summer preview: “Another loss to Kansas should be followed by a stampede of updated résumés.”
He also clamped down hard here: “(Dana) Holgorsen needs a rebound to improve his job security. The Mountaineers, meanwhile, need a rebound to prove another simple fact: that West Virginia football still matters.”
What a whopping dent to WVU’s national perception. While it’s hard to quantify the impact of negative media vibes, suffice to say West Virginia coaches aren’t thrilled to see their program being panned by a newspaper with the nation’s third-highest circulation. Even if that circulation is comprised predominantly by hotel guests.
A couple points from Myerberg’s entertaining assessment beg disagreement, however:
1.) He describes Oliver Luck’s call for improvement last December “as shaky a plug as you’ll find on the coaching circuit.” But in reality, Holgorsen is Luck’s man through-and-through, a coach whose firing would cast a stain on the athletics director legacy. My guess is nothing short of an implosion—something in the 2-10 or 3-9 range—would force Luck to change coaches.
2.) He suggests West Virginia’s receiving corp “lacks game-breaking ability—there’s no make-’em-miss blazer here.” Perhaps Myerberg didn’t see Mario Alford blazing through the Texas and Iowa State secondaries late last season.
In summation, Myerberg predicts a team that will be on the bowl bubble while noting “it’s hard to locate the Big 12 wins.”
Mountaineer Nation can take heart that in 2013 Myerberg forecast WVU to win seven games, and we all know how mistaken he was about that.