Nov 30, 2013; Morgantown, WV, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers running back Charles Sims (3) runs with the ball for a touchdown during the third quarter of the game against Iowa State Cyclones at Milan Puskar Stadium. The Iowa State Cyclones defeated West Virginia Mountaineers 52-44 in the third overtime. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

14 Till 14: Magic 8 Ball and West Virginia

Alright guys we made it to Friday. We survived the work week and now it’s time to enjoy our final weekend without Alabama football for a very long time. So with game week approaching, today’s countdown is all about breaking down and predicting the West Virginia game. So first off, let’s get to know the enemy.

Last year the Mountaineers went down hill (see what I did there?). The 2012 season started out explosive for the what was high potency offense. Starting off 5-0, they scored 31+ points in each of those games including out scoring the Baylor offense and upsetting then-No. 11 Texas in Austin.

Then the wheels fell off. Key injuries, a sputtering offense, and of course their questionable defense that couldn’t hold their own. So what happened in 2013? Well, when the offense can’t score 40 points a game then chances are the bottom tier defense isn’t going to be much help. A healthy Clint Trickett and Charles Sims were some of the lone bright spots for the team last year but with Sims gone, someone will have to step up and produce.

So let’s talk about the Mountaineers chances this season. A healthy Trickett should make a huge difference for the offense, inconsistent QB play could destroy any team (hopefully Alabama won’t go through it). At RB, despite the loss of Sims, the Mountaineers have a plethora of talent. Andrew Buie, 2012 leading rusher, returns from a redshirt season. Rushel Shell, a highly touted recruit, transferred from Pittsburgh and will be eligible this year.

All in all, the Mountaineers have about five potential playmakers in the backfield and will surely be moved around the field. The WR position wasn’t as productive last season but that can be due to the rough QB play. Now, they’re not exactly game changers or future top picks but they can still be a productive bunch. Mario Alford returns as their No. 1 WR and Daikel Shorts has some nice bust out potential.

However, despite the numerous playmakers, OL is still a major concern. After their weak play last year, losing a couple starters and questionable play at both Tackle positions will leave their offense vulnerable.

Defensively, what can you say. They were 100th in Points Against last season, and didn’t feature much of a pass rush or a shut down DB. Their LB play was solid and a lot of experience is coming back at not only LB, but the rest of the positions. It’s just hard to see WVU making leaps and bounds of improvement after a disastrous season last year. Daryl Worley is their best DB and Isaiah Bruce could be a a big time player at LB, but other than that the Mountaineers are banking on a lot of question marks and potential.

How will the Mountaineers perform against Alabama? It’s a little hard to say. Last year we knew Virginia Tech’s DL was going to give Alabama’s newly put together OL fits. Which led to a not so impressive 35-10 victory.

Looking for a match up nightmare this season. Well it’s hard to find, at least from WVU’s perspective. Even if Coker/Sims struggle in the opening game, WVU’s defense will still be in trouble with Bama’s RB trio. Henry should plow through their small defensive line up and Drake has enough speed and burst to out run their defensive back field. Worst case, it’ll be a lot like the Tide’s opener last season. A couple bailout plays on Special Teams and the defense taking advantage of WVU’s questionable OL.

This will be a nice test for the Alabama CBs. WVU doesn’t exactly have the most imposing group, but they’re good enough to cause some fits. WVU will also use their many talented RBs all over the field, so seeing the adjustments on defense will be key as well.

With more guys than I remember the past couple years, many defensive players can play multiple positions. This will also give the new hybrid 4-3/3-4 defense a nice look as well.

The ultimate match up to watch – okay I’m cheating and giving two – is Amari Cooper vs Darly Worley. Cooper as we all know, is finally healthy and poised for an All-American campaign. Worley is looking like a 1st team All-Big 12 player at CB. If the starting QB for Alabama can get the ball to Cooper and give him a chance to succeed against a pretty talented match up, then there shouldn’t be too many challenges for him throughout the rest of the season.

The other match up is Alabama’s pass rush against WVU’s OL. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has missed a consistent pass rush in Tuscaloosa and this is the kind of match up to get that unit off to a great start. A’Shawn Robinson should do well against their interior line (specifically their new Center) and Bama has a nice rotation of edge rushers to capitalize against their questionable Tackles. If Bama struggles, we may have to re-evaluate the unit.

Prediction time.

This game will be close in the first half. Maybe a not so spectacular 10-point lead at the half. In the second half, I see the offense settling in and the defense adjusting to WVU’s need of getting the ball out quick to their backs.

This should be a 24+ rout when it’s all said and done. Of course, we’re all looking forward to seeing how Alabama’s QBs do. West Virginia is going to be a nice middle of the road team this season. Probaly 7-5, possibly even up to 9 wins if everything goes just right. I’m not as worried about this game as I was last year but don’t be surprised if Trickett is the real deal and puts more points on the board than we’re comfortable with. All in all, it should be a day of celebration for Tide fans.

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