A sixth-place nod from Greg Hunter helped nudge the football program past women's gymnastics in our program rankings, but is was a close call, as just one point separated the two in our evaluations. Not-too-distant successes and facility enhancements help with an optimistic outlook, but are balanced by the results of the last two seasons.
If ever a program was primed to make a big move in either direction in our rankings, it's football. A repeat of the last two years would send it plummeting, while a bounce-back season with some quality wins and a bowl victory would make the memories of 2012 and 2013 recede quickly.
Greg Hunter: (6th) West Virginia’s streak of 11 straight bowl appearances came to an end last fall, as Dana Holgorsen’s third Mountaineer squad stumbled to a 4-8 record. It lost six of its last seven games, three of which went into overtime (an OT win at TCU while losing in overtime at Mountaineer Field to both Texas and Iowa State). WVU does return 31 players with starting experience for the 2014 season, including eight full-time starters on defense and seven on offense, but in a league like the Big 12, where the football resources seem almost limitless, the road back from 4-8 is not an easy one. WVU continues to pour a lot of money into football to constantly improves its facilities, but unlike the old Big East days, where West Virginia was the big fish in the little pond, now the Mountaineers’ budget is dwarfed by the likes of Texas and Oklahoma.
Matt Keller: (8th) Rounding out the next four is football, which has struggled in the Big 12, but been at least competitive.
Michael Carvelli: (9th) This will obviously be a make-or-break season for Dana Holgorsen and the WVU football program. After winning an Orange Bowl a few seasons ago, things have been difficult for the Mountaineers in their adjustment to the Big 12 Conference. After starting 5-0 in 2012, West Virginia has gone 6-14 in its last 20 games – including a 4-8 finish a year ago. If the Mountaineers can get improved play at the quarterback position from whoever wins the starting job, things could start to turn around since it appears that they are beginning to get deeper and more talented at most positions on the field.
Kevin Kinder: (9th) The familiarity that all have with the football program could cut in different ways in evaluating the program. Bright spots aren't hard to find, and there are signs of improvement over the offseason. However, that same scrutiny can also lead to a negative outlook, as it's easier to pick out problem areas when more is known about the program. With that in mind, I tried to keep a very objective balance with Dana Holgorsen's troops, and the results are just like those he has had -- mixed. There's lots of good, and lots of bad, and when you put them all together you get a program that's mid-pack according to our evaluation system.
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