There's been much talk about how West Virginia will transition to the Big 12 and how they will compete in their new conference. Some experts have predicted they will emerge victorious and triumph over their new conference mates. Others say they will be humbled by the increase in competition and plummet to mediocrity.
If he improves his decision making, Austin could be the best return man in the country.
For your lunchtime reading, EerSports presents to you the five reasons West Virginia will take home the Big 12 crown this fall.
1. Because the Mountaineers could have one of the best special teams units in the league.
One sentence in and you're already thinking I'm crazy, but hear me out. Placekicker Tyler Bitancurt has been inconsistent, but he's also responsible for two of the biggest kicks in recent Mountaineers history - the game winners versus USF last year and Pitt in 2009. As a freshman, he was First Team All Big East. Who's to say he won't return to form?
Corey Smith may have won and lost the job multiple times last year, but by the end of the season, he had rounded into form. Over the last three games, he punted 13 times, averaging 41 yards a boot and pinning five of those kicks inside the 20 yard line. From spring to summer to fall camp, he has received praise for his booming kicks.
As for the return game, Tavon Austin is an obvious threat to score at any time. While he lost the punt return job at the end of last season due to poor decisions, he has spent the entire offseason learning from the coaches and working on that.
2. Because four of the six toughest Big 12 opponents will be coming to Morgantown.
TCU, Baylor, Oklahoma and Kansas State could be the four toughest teams in the league (other than West Virginia) and WVU will face all of them at home in front of a raucous Mountaineer crowd.
Texas and Oklahoma State are on the road, but the Cowboys lost a ton of firepower from last year's squad, while Texas is getting a heck of a lot of hype for a team that has gone 13-12 the last two seasons. They have a boatload of talent, but they still don't have a quarterback and head coach Mack Brown has been under fire a lot for a man who was just in the National Championship Game three years ago.
Holgorsen and company have had all offseason to perfect their schemes.
3. Because Geno Smith is the best passing quarterback in the entire league....
Robert Griffin III may have been Big 12 First-Team QB, but a lot of that came due to his running ability (not that he was a slouch as a thrower). Brandon Weeden was the best passer, and Oklahoma State won the conference.
In 2010, Landry Jones and Oklahoma. In 2009, Colt McCoy and Texas. In 2008, Sam Bradford and Oklahoma.... and so on.
Obviously Landry Jones is still in the league but myself - and the Big 12 media - think Geno Smith is the top QB in the league.
4. .... and Geno also has the best weapons in the league.
You know what else those quarterbacks had? Toys to play with. Ryan Broyles (Oklahoma), Justin Blackmon (Oklahoma State), Jordan Shipley (Texas) and Kendall Wright (Baylor) all were at or near the top in the league in receiving these last few years.
5. Because Dana Holgorsen has had time to fully implement his offensive system.
While the offense was light years ahead of what it was under the previous regime, last season's regular season showcased a flawed and, sometimes, unreliable offense. In games against Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Louisville and South Florida, the offense (not defense or special teams) averaged less than 20 points a game!
A month later, West Virginia trounced a much tougher opponent on a much bigger stage with a 70 point performance that easily could have been 90, if Holgorsen had chosen to do so.
Coach Holgorsen gave credit to one thing - and one thing only - for that dramatic turnaround: the extra fifteen practices allowed to prepare for the bowl game.
Since then, they've had another few weeks of practice for the spring, offseason conditioning, voluntary workouts in the summer and all of fall camp and practice to prepare for this year.
With all of that, the Mountaineers should be running like a well-oiled machine by the time September 29th hits and Baylor comes to town.