Bold Predictions for WVU’s 2021 Season
Now that we have covered the early camp preview and offered our five offensive and five defensive surprises, we move into the final weeks of our pre-season coverage of Mountaineer football. As usual, the next step includes our bold predictions for WVU’s 2021 season. Remember, we style these as bold predictions. We are not picking the safe bets, but the ones that will require several balls to bounce our way. Without further ado, here are this year’s predictions.
Bold Prediction One: WVU Fields Another Top 25 Defense
Last year, we successfully predicted that West Virginia’s defense would improve substantially. Specifically, we thought they would field a top three unit in the Big 12. In 2019, the Mountaineers’ defense surrendered 28.8 points per game.
That was good for 74th in the nation and eighth in the conference. Considering they faced some attrition across the board and lost their defensive coordinator, we thought it was bold to predict an improvement to third in the conference. As it turns out, the prediction looks less bold in hindsight. WVU gave up just 20.5 points per game, good for 22nd in the country and first in the conference.
This offseason, West Virginia suffered losses on that side of the ball, both expected and unexpected. All-American Darius Stills graduated. After the regular season ended, the Mountaineers then lost eight players to the transfer portal. Notably, they lost two starters: Tykee Smith and Dreshun Miller. They also lost depth on the defensive line and in the secondary.
As a result, most expect a regression from the unit. We do not. We expect it will remain a top-25 unit in terms of scoring defense. They return freshman stand-out Akheem Mesidor and senior Dante Stills. They should finally see the promise and potential of Vandarius Cowan fulfilled. Josh Chandler-Semedo, Exree Loe, and Lance Dixon should trade punches on the second level. Scottie Young seems more than capable to replace Smith’s production. In short, there is plenty of talent littered across the unit. To fill any holes created by lack of veteran depth, Head Coach Neal Brown has been grooming players to fill multiple roles and has experimented with looks that keep opposing offenses off-balance by keeping the “best eleven” on the field together.
Bold Prediction Two: Doege Accumulates 3,500 Yards
There are certainly some safer offensive predictions we could throw out here. The revamped offensive line should be greatly improved. As a result, WVU could put up over 1,800 rushing yards. Instead, we wanted to make a bold prediction (as those two seem like decent, low-risk bets).
We start and end with quarterback. Jarret Doege received plenty of criticism last year for being a “game manager” type of quarterback who had trouble with certain throws. We certainly have our own questions as Coach Brown calls him the “most improved” player this off-season. That said, he has shown more poise, polish, and accuracy during Fall Camp than we have previously seen. It would be rare to see a quarterback take a huge leap in his fifth season starting games, but the early evidence supports predicted improvement. How much improvement remains a key question.
One thing that stands out about Doege is his consistency. Over his career, he averages 63.5% accuracy. His worst season saw him complete 62.2% and his best (full) season saw him complete 63.9% of his passes. He also averages seven yards per passing attempt, with a spread between six-point-eight and seven-point-three. That is, simply, remarkable consistency. So how can he really have that much higher of a ceiling?
Dropped passes is answer number one. Last season, Doege’s adjusted yards per attempt was seven-point-two. That number factors in receiver mistakes. Simply, with more consistency out of his receiver corp, which has been extremely young the past two seasons, we expect Doege’s targets to find and coral his passes more regularly. This should add 150 yards to his totals straight away. And if he really has improved his footwork and accuracy even half as much as it seems, 3,500 yards is definitely attainable, despite the fact that the offense will likely be relatively run-heavy.
Bold Prediction One: WVU Wins Ten Games
We have seen a fairly wide spread of predictions for West Virginia’s season. Some predictions fall as low as five wins. Most scatter between six and eight. We are being bold, though. So we offer this prediction: including the bowl game, West Virginia will win 10 games in 2021.
WVU features a manageable out-of-conference schedule. Maryland has some weapons, to be sure, but they are still a middling Big Ten team at this point until they prove otherwise. Virginia Tech represents a bit of an unknown quantity. They had some good moments last season, but they managed just five wins in eleven games. The Hokies lost a ton of talent to the transfer portal. They might improve some, but they might also regress further.
In conference, there are definitely some teams that could improve in 2021, but there are others who will struggle. As much as fans would love to see WVU send Oklahoma out of the conference with an upset loss by the Sooners, we have a hard time seeing that. Iowa State returns a lot of talent, and they have had the Mountaineers’ number of late. Other than those two, any game is winnable (and losable).
But if West Virginia repeats its top 25 defensive performance, Doege improves, and the offensive line improves as much as it could, ten wins is not unattainable. It is not a cake walk, but, again, these are bold predictions, not safe ones.