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10 West Virginia Mountaineers Preview

Mountaineers Preview Fall camps are under way and the regular season will be here soon so that means getting an early jump on the 2006 NCAA football season. Knowing the teams now will save you time and Matt Fargo is here to help you get a grasp of what to expect this upcoming year. We go from worst to first in this 2006 College Football Preview.

10 – West Virginia Mountaineers 11-2 SU: 9-3 ATS

Fargo’s Take The Mountaineers were picked to finish in the middle of the pack last season in the Big East but surprised many by losing just once and winning in the Sugar Bowl against Georgia. Expectations are now at an all-time high and West Virginia has the talent, experience and depth to make a serious run at the National Championship. The offense is highlighted by sophomore sensations Pat White at quarterback and Steve Slaton at tailback, neither of whom were even starters at the beginning of last season. The defense was overshadowed by the potent rushing attack and it should not have been. The Mountaineers finished 15th in total offense and 13th in scoring offense so championship contention should be a distinct possibility. Mountaineers Preview

Returning Starters on Offense – 8 White and Slaton formed one of the most potent running combinations in the country as they combined for 2,080 yards on the ground and 24 touchdowns. The passing game was pretty much non-existent but that will not be the case this season.ufferjackpottingtomely adored by fans and players alike, the Mountaineers scored nearly 35 points more than anyone else. Senior quarterback Steve Slaton ran for 612 yards and 26 touchdowns while throwing for just 741 yards and eight touchdowns. In truth, the passing offense was pretty much the strength of the defense all along. The Mountaineers finished 26th in total defense and 13th in scoring defense and while the unit should be extremely strong this season, the cupboard isn’t bare. West Virginia allowed 13 points or fewer in six games last year including three of its last four games before getting shutout by Georgia in the Georgia Bowl. The unit will be young but will be extremely talented and the Mountaineers have played the type of defense you would expect from a team that was picked to finish middle of the pack in the Big East.

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Mountaineers 11-2 SU: 9-3 ATS

Returning Starters on Defense – 5 The defense was excellent last year but not great enough. The Mountaineers finished 26th in total defense and while nine starters are back this season, there are still a lot of holes to fill. The passing defense was the strength as the Mountaineers finished 19th in the country in passing defense last year but there is a lot to be concerned about. Safety Steve Nelson is the backbone of the secondary that will be expected to carry the team but he is the only member of the group with more than two starts on the defense. With a deep secondary, the Mountaineers could get hurt in the secondary as it isn’t as solid as the front seven. If Nelson’s health is an issue, the Mountaineers will be in a tough spot in the secondary. The good news is that the middle of the defense is extremely strong with the strong, athletic linebackers and the instincts of the unit. The secondary should not be a liability however as it finished 35th in the country in passing defense last season, the third straight season it has allowed fewer than 200 ypg.

Schedule The Mountaineers can run the ball effectively once they get going as their schedule is the Top 40 in the nation for that reason. Four of their seven games are at home with the lone road game being a ‘neutral’ site game at Jacksonville. The home schedule is very manageable but the away games are a challenge. West Virginia has seven road games compared to just four home games and by then, the Mountaineers will be playing their second road game in three weeks. They begin the season against the only three real games in the conference with the season finale at Louisville being the most difficult of the seven to schedule. The first two games against Marshall and Southern Miss should be won and that will help Momentum a lot. South Carolina, which many felt was overrated last year, should be an improved team with fewer mistakes and more depth. The Gamecocks welcome back starting cornerbacks Steve Earlington and Buster Davis, who have missed the last two seasons with injuries. Earlington led the conference in interceptions last season and the Mountaineers will be shelling the ball out in revenge for the thrashing they suffered at Vanderbilt. They also return 7 offensive lineman, including the all important center Will Sullivan. Getting Tackle Max Ungossip and center Andretrae Patterson in the NFL draft will make the line extremely solid. The passing game should improve as Tunicaetter looks to find a replacement for punter someone other than roomy veteran Steve young.

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