(Editor's Note: This previously ran at Crystal Ball Run)
Camp Opens: March 11
Spring Game: April 21
All anyone remembers about WVU's Big East-championship season is the 70-33 victory over Clemson in the Discover Orange Bowl. But the Mountaineers had some serious ups and downs last season, including a dismal loss at Syracuse.
Now Dana Holgorsen and the rest of his Mountaineers must take it up a notch this season as the Big 12 won't be as forgiving. WVU paid a hefty price to get out of the Big East, so now the Mountaineers will find out if it was really worth it.
Stability Factor (1 = chaos; 5 = rock solid): 3.5
The Mountaineers should begin the season ranked in the Top 10, and that's based strictly on the potential of the offense. But WVU's defense is undergoing a schematic change from a 3-3-5 to a more typical 3-4 or 4-3 under new coordinator Joe DeForest.
The offense should score points, but the entire team must adjust to a new conference and nine new opponents. That's a challenge for any program.
Under the Microscope: Offensive Line
West Virginia's offensive line finished the season strong and guard Josh Jenkins returns after sitting out a season with a knee injury. This group will need to be tougher than it has been in the past, and it will be called on to spark a stagnant running attack. The line must also keep Geno Smith upright.
Locked and Loaded: Passing Game
Geno Smith was special in 2011. He threw 31 touchdown passes and completed 66 percent of his passes for 4,385 yards. Smith also has all of favorite targets back, including Tavon Austin (101 receptions, 1,186 yards and eight touchdowns) and Stedman Bailey (72 receptions, 1,279 yards and 12 touchdowns).
WVU hopes the talented Ivan McCartney has a breakout season, which could make the Mountaineers' passing game downright scary.
Jockeying for Position: Defensive Line
The Mountaineers will need to replace some serious talent on the defensive front with the loss of Julian Miller and Bruce Irvin.
So that means Will Clarke (35 tackles), Jorge Wright (38 tackles) and any newcomers who want to step up will face a big challenge.
Name to Know: Doug Rigg
As WVU transitions on defense, linebacker Doug Rigg could become a burgeoning superstar. He had just 29 tackles last season, but you could see the potential for greatness. The 6-foot-1, 235-pounder is an athletic playmaker and he could be a key cog on the defense.
Spring will be a success if...: If the starters stay healthy
If WVU is going to be successful in its first year in the Big 12, the Mountaineers will need to develop depth at every position. Keeping the starters healthy is a critical piece to having the depth necessary to survive a much tougher scheduler in 2012.