We're grading each Big 12 team's season right now, and we'll finish up with the last team on the list: The West Virginia Mountaineers.
OFFENSE: The Mountaineers boasted the Big 12's best passer, and Geno Smith played as advertised this season. He racked up an FBS-high 42 touchdown passes and just six interceptions, slowing a bit from a red-hot start but turning in a fantastic season. His numbers were obviously aided a bit by having the Big 12's best duo of receivers in Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin, but the trio worked together in fabulous fashion. The running game was inconsistent at times, but part of the reason for that was a nagging injury that sidelined starting running back Shawne Alston for about half the season. The offensive line, led by senior center Joe Madsen, was solid though unspectacular. The lack of a consistent running game was part offensive line, part average back play from Andrew Buie, but either way, it made protecting Smith a more difficult task. Smith's passer rating of nearly 165 was outrageous, but he was sacked 23 times on 513 attempts. That was more sacks than everyone in the Big 12 except TCU and Kansas. The offense had some rough patches, but it still had a case as the Big 12's best, even though its 6.5 yards per play average ranked third in the Big 12. GRADE: A
DEFENSE: Where to begin? I'll try to be nice, but opposing offenses were not very nice and this unit simply didn't show enough fight. Defensive coordinator Joe DeForest was demoted in favor of co-defensive coordinator Keith Patterson, who took over playcalling roles. Cornerbacks coach Daron Roberts was let go. The carnage after just one year in the Big 12 came after a year that might be one of the most difficult I've seen for a Big 12 defense. I've seen a lot of bad defense in this league, but West Virginia's was honestly one of the worst I've ever seen in the Big 12. I knew WVU would be due for a wakeup call on defense jumping from the Big East to the Big 12, but I never thought it would get this bad. WVU gave up a Big 12-worst 38 points a game, ranking 117th nationally. In conference play, WVU gave up an average of 43.3 points. Only Colorado was worse in all of the FBS, and the Buffaloes lost to an FCS team last year. GRADE: F
OVERALL: Grading this team is really difficult. As I've admitted all offseason, I was among the hordes of folks who overrated this team from the start. The trio of Smith, Austin and Bailey were just as good as we all thought, but simply put, the rest of this team was not ready to compete for a Big 12 title. I overlooked some of those weaknesses, so though this team fell well short of expectations thanks to a five-game losing streak in the middle of the season, when you looked at this team a bit closer, the weaknesses should have been more obvious. WVU rose to No. 5 in the polls without beating a truly outstanding team, and joined USC and Arkansas as some of the nation's most disappointing teams. That title, though, is somewhat unfair because this team was overrated from the beginnings, and the expectations out of reach. GRADE: D+
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