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Sizzling offenses makes Big 12 fun to watch

By Staff | Jul 29, 2016

“Big 12 football” has become a slogan that quickly brings to mind fun-filled Saturdays for those whose pulse is quickened by plenty of scoring and staggering total offense yardage.

With nine starting quarterbacks — including WVU’s Skyler Howard — returning this season, this could be another year where 38 or 40 points just aren’t enough to win some conference games.

West Virginia has Howard, who when last seen was throwing for 532 yards and five touchdowns in a one-point Cactus Bowl win over Arizona State.

But there are other record setters returning to Oklahoma, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State offenses.

Does the team that “holds” its nine conference opponents to “only” 28 points a game have a conference championship in its purposed future?

Few are there that would mention six-year coach Dana Holgorsen and his upstart Mountaineers as a prime threat to win the Big 12 championship and possibly be a representative in college football’s version of its Final Four.

But Holgorsen comes armed for the quickly approaching 2016 season with some offensive weapons and defensive playmakers.

Howard threw for 3,145 yards and 26 touchdowns last year when the Mountaineers lost their first four conference games and still finished with an 8-5 overall record after the pulsating Cactus Bowl success. Howard even ran for 502 yards.

Rushel Shell will likely tear a page from departed running back Wendell Smallwood’s ledger and have more carries that anybody.

Holdovers Tyler Orlosky and Adam Pankey are two of the league’s better offensive linemen.

Howard should benefit from one of the Big 12’s most experienced offensive lines . . . and if he does there’ll be Daikiel Shorts, Shelton Gibson (10 touchdown receptions last season), and Jovon Durante waiting for his throws.

Josh Lambert gives the Mountaineers chances to win close games with his kicking leg.

What will it take to win the expected high-scoring conference games that will take place every Saturday when the in-fighting begins?

Can West Virginia outpoint Oklahoma, Baylor and Texas Christian — all teams it plays in Morgantown?

The conference road games take the should-be-confident-enough Mountaineers to Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, Texas and Iowa State.

With all the league’s experienced quarterbacks lying in wait, can West Virginia expect to limit any of them outside of the two Kansas schools to manageable point totals?

Noble Nwachukwu may be as hard to block as his name is to spell. Dravon Askew-Henry will draw the attention of every conference offensive coordinator.

For the first time in Holgorsen’s six years in town the Mountaineers will actually have some quality depth that it takes to win games after the September/October attrition rate has cut down the number of useful players every team starts the season having.

The Mountaineers don’t have a true road date until going to Lubbock to see Texas Tech in the season’s fifth game.

The whole football world will be focusing on Oklahoma, TCU, Baylor and Oklahoma State while also wondering if Charlie Strong will survive his third season at Texas. Holgorsen and his under-the-radar Mountaineers won’t be the focal point of any team’s season-long success or failure. And that inattention could be just what the high-scoring Saturdays need to bring Mountaineer victories.