WVU fans can point to 2005

While fans may be disheartened by the low expectations surrounding the upcoming football season at West Virginia University – the second in the Mountaineers’ new home, the Big 12 -they can take heart in knowing that this will not be the first time a team wearing the old gold and blue has been selected to finish near, or at, the bottom of the conference in which it competed.

Following an 8-4 (4-2 Big East) campaign in 2004, then-head coach Rich Rodriguez was faced with a 2005 depth chart that included a huge question mark at quarterback and a running back situation where it appeared an incoming freshman would be the Mountaineers top rushing threat.

Redshirt freshman Pat White became the answer at quarterback and that incoming freshman running back -Steve Slaton – became a 1,000-yard rushing machine for the Mountaineers.

A 10-1 regular season mark, marred only by a 34-17 home loss to Virginia Tech, sent the Big East champion (7-0) Mountaineers to the Sugar Bowl in Atlanta to face SEC champion Georgia where WVU’s two-headed monster scored a stunning 38-35 victory.

Now, we find third-year head coach Dana Holgorsen entering the upcoming season with more questions than answers on offense and a defense that was, statistically, the worst in the Big 12.

We all know the losses faced following last year’s disappointing 7-6 season, that ended with an embarrassing loss to Syracuse in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl.

Gone are record-setting quarterback Geno Smith and his three favorite receivers Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey and J.D. Woods. Also, gone is Shawne Alston from the running game and three starters – Josh Jenkins, Jeff Braun and Joe Madsen – from the offensive line.

Sure, there were some losses from the defensive side of the football, but Holgorsen’s primary game plan involved an offensive unit that was accustomed to putting up huge numbers against any team it faced.

The absence of that offensive output as well as the return of a defensive unit that showed little improvement during the previous campaign have combined for the low expectations surrounding the program.

Even the Las Vegas odds makers have installed the Mountaineers as favorites in only two of contests on which they have posted betting lines.

But, if there is one thing I have learned during my tenure here is that low predictions like these usually result in unexpected surprises.

Yes, the 2013 edition of the old gold and blue will enter the season with more questions than answers. They will be underdogs more than favorites.

Fans should be OK with that.

It will make winning all the more enjoyable and losing more acceptable because the Mountaineers weren’t expected to win in the first place.