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Pregamin’ West Virginia


Welcome back to another edition of PREGAMIN’, y’all! Thanks to everyone who played along with us in the comments. Here are the results of last week’s Masthead Q&A.

Pregamin’ Scoreboard

Writer Wins
Writer Wins
Ryan Faller 1
Ryan Herrera 1
Sean MacKinnon 1
Tim Bussen 0
Nate Edwards 0
Mitch Hill 0
Brandon Kiley 0
Josh Matejka 0

Looks like the Ryans and Sean have taken an early lead, though Sean will bow out for this week’s Q&A. For those who participated in the comments, keep doing so! We’ll have a commenter scoreboard up and running next week!


Welcome, SEC Nation!

Drink Up!

It’s a crime that Logboat’s Mamoot won’t be available, but Unfiltered Wheat is one of life’s simplest pleasures.

All Aboard the Hype Train!

So Fresh and So Clean, Clean


It’s not bad. All of the individual pieces work by themselves if not together. There are a few small tweaks that could have made this really sing (white numbers, silvery logo on the helmet, etc.), but it’s not bad as is.

Also, if the players like it, who really cares?

If You’re So Smart, Tell Me What’s Gonna Happen

Well... damn. There’s not much else to say about last week’s game, the duddest of all duds Missouri has ever dudded. Take us through your emotions in the game and in the days following.

Ryan Herrera, Lead Football Beat Writer: Watching Missouri open with two excellent drives while forcing back-to-back three-and-outs brought my excitement level up so high that the second quarter meltdown left me beat. I still had hope going into halftime, but seeing how easily Wyoming’s rushers were able to move the chains really mellowed me out.

Then the Tigers decided to make it a game, teasing a comeback in the fourth quarter that got my hopes up once again. But, as the great Michael Kelso from That ‘70s Show once said, “Nobody likes a tease,” so the turnover on downs to end the game left a really bad taste in my mouth.

Ryan Faller, Football Columnist: Bipolar wouldn’t be accurate in describing my emotions; that would indicate I was equal parts happy and sad. That wasn’t the case Saturday night.

My joy stopped after the first quarter. That gave way to surprise, then bewilderment, and finally anger. And that was just the second quarter. The days that followed, happiness took over again because I remembered that I was actually, at one time, planning a road trip to Laramie for the game.

For me, this loss is not necessarily one that defines the season. This weekend, the Tigers could very well prove Week 1 was an aberration and show us who they really are. It certainly does not play a factor in determining whether they have a shot in the East. But it does say something about the current state of the program when Odom has to field questions about losing to a Mountain West team after having eight months to prepare.

Josh Matejka, Deputy Manager: Unlike a lot of disappointing games, where I feel inclined to turn things off for a while to let myself decompress, I felt compelled to keep my eyes on the TV. For one, I was sure the Tigers would eventually get their act together and pull a win from the clutches of defeat. But eventually, I felt as if I was watching a train wreck in slow motion.

I’ve become less a fatalist as the years have gone on, and I was over the loss by Monday morning. While it was horrible to watch Missouri lay an egg on national TV against an OK-at-best G5 team, Barry Odom and Co. have proven they can put things together when the ship starts taking on water. We’ve also seen them wallop good teams just as convincingly as they’ve lost to inferior ones. So while my hopes aren’t quite as high as they were a week ago, I’m still counting on this being a good season to be a Tiger fan.

West Virginia was one of the teams to “replace” Missouri when they left the Big XII for greener pastures, but the two programs don’t have much of a history. Give us your (well-researched) thoughts on the program.

Ryan Herrera: This is my hottest of hot takes, but West Virginia only has some success because it plays “Take Me Home, Country Roads” at home games. I think people underestimate the energy and pride that engulfs fans when they sing along to the song their school has pretty much copyrighted. Consider Alabama fans and “Dixieland Delight” for comparison’s sake.

Now, take a look at the Mountaineers’ records since 2014 — when the song became one of the official state anthems of West Virginia — for further evidence:

  • 2018: Overall = 8-4, Home = 5-1, Games Away From Home = 3-3
  • 2017: 7-6, 4-2, 3-4
  • 2016: 10-3, 6-1, 4-2
  • 2015: 8-5, 6-1, 2-4
  • 2014: 7-6, 3-3, 4-3

Clearly, even during its 10-3 season in 2016, West Virginia was better at home than on the road. Again, this all comes back to “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” When the Mountaineers get to play the song at home games, they usually do well. When they go on the road and can’t play the song, they usually don’t. On field performance means nothing when it comes to those pesky West Virginians; it just depends on if they get to play the song or not — and not getting to play their song in Columbia is an advantage for the Tigers.

Ryan Faller: West Virginia is in that fraternity of around 20-something schools and buoys around a lot — not unlike Missouri. During the Pat White years, the Mountaineers won 33 games from 2005-2007, appeared in two BCS bowls, and were considered one of the top programs — if not the best — in the Big East. After Rich Rodriguez exited, Bill Stewart kept momentum going, but the program never sustained the BCS-like success of those formative years.

Even Dana Holgorsen, whose first team in 2011 went to the Orange Bowl a year before the Big 12 defection, had trouble with consistency. He won more than eight games only twice in eight seasons in Morgantown.

And now, what do they have in Neal Brown? The track record is there, including having turned the Troy program around. Brown arrived in 2015 and won a total of 31 games over his last three seasons, including a win at No. 25 LSU in 2017. Does this translate into success in the Big 12?

Josh Matejka: They’re the team that had Will Grier, right? Yeah, OK, that’s them. I hate to seem flippant about an opponent that could very realistically put the Tigers in an 0-2 hole, but I just don’t care about the Mountaineers. And, to be quite frank, I don’t care to know any more about them than I do now.

You know how you sometimes forget that New Hampshire is a state? The Mountaineers are my New Hampshire of college football. The extent of my knowledge of West Virginia extends to Bob Huggins, the John Denver song and Steven Soderbergh’s excellent 2017 heist film Logan Lucky. I don’t need any more West Virginia in my life, thank you very much.

Turnovers aside, Kelly Bryant was just about the only bright spot to take away from last week’s miserable affair. Of the myriad of improvements the Tigers need to make, name ONE that is most essential to getting a win over the Mountaineers.

Ryan Herrera: Get Albert O more involved! It’s a travesty that he was only targeted four times against Wyoming. He’s the most talented of the pass-catchers, and even when the defense keys in on him, he has the size and skill to make plays anyway. Just take a look at the numbers from last season and see how much Missouri benefits from getting Albert O the ball. Sure, maybe the flow of the game made it necessary to hit the receivers more often than the big guy at tight end — at least that’s what Derek Dooley told reporters after Tuesday’s practice. But still, I think targeting Albert O early and letting him make those plays will eventually leave the field wide open for the receivers to run free.

Ryan Faller: Mizzou has to show me that they can play defense. Any defense will do, but preferably mostly pass defense. They will definitely need to generate a pass rush to win this game, which is something they did need last week, but that’s only because the rush defense was so porous. Wyoming only threw six passes. West Virginia is the antithesis of Wyoming.

Back when he was an assistant for Tommy Tuberville at Texas Tech from 2010-2012, Brown called his offense “NASCAR,” characterized by players sprinting back to the line for the next snap before defensive alignments could be set. You could argue that modern substitution rules were put in place because of the pressure Brown’s defense is designed to apply to a defense.

I don’t expect the Mountaineers to run the ball much. They ran it only 24 times for 34 yards in the opener against James Madison; they threw the ball 42 times. If you’re Odom and Ryan Walters, you do everything you can to make West Virginia beat you on the ground.

Josh Matejka: How about a freaking pass rush? Seriously, this is a horse so dead that it’s already been processed at the Elmer’s factory. Yet, I will still importunately continue to beat it. The Missouri offense will win a handful of games on its own this year, and more power to them. But in order for the Tigers to have any semblance of a good season, they have to play defense, and in order for them to play good defense, the defensive line has to do something — ANYTHING, DAMN IT! Jordan Elliot started off last week’s game by getting into the backfield a handful of times and then the line disappeared faster than a friend of Jeffrey Epstein. If they can do li-ter-al-ly anything against the Mountaineers, they’ll get a win.

PICK ‘EM. Give us an over/under (62.5), a score prediction and an MVP.

Ryan Herrera: I’m going with the under, a 33-20 Missouri win and Kelly Bryant takes charge of the offense once again to take home the game’s MVP.

Ryan Faller: I’m taking the over, only because Kelly Bryant showed me enough (just enough) in the opener, and I don’t think Mizzou’s defense can hold West Virginia under 28 points.

Score prediction: 45-31, Mizzou. I do not think this team can play as poorly for three straight quarters as they did in Wyoming for two consecutive weeks. If they do, it could be a long season.

MVP: Kelly Bryant. I don’t think he wings it 48 times again, but he limits the killer mistakes.

Josh Matejka: Despite my misgivings about the defense, I’ll take the under. Missouri wins 33-27, but I think the last Mountaineers touchdown comes late. For MVP, give me another heaping helping of MY MAIN MAN, JONATHAN NANCE. Kelly Bryant doesn’t seem to have much chemistry with many other people right now and the senior’s performance went a bit unnoticed last week. You know, because they lost.