No. 11 West Virginia

I have been snake-charmed by West Virginia before, twice in fact, and neither time worked out so well.

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In late 1993, I was dispatched by HQ to New Orleans for the purposes of chronicling the 11-0 Mountaineers' surprising run to the Sugar Bowl.

We the people were told Don Nehlen’s team was being woefully overlooked and underappreciated by the nation’s ignoramus press.

Funny thing. The only important thing I remember about that trip was seeing Fats Domino perform live at a fabulous Sugar Bowl dinner\dance extravaganza.

I found my thrill…

The game was a joke, as Steve Spurrier’s Florida Gators routed the Mountaineers, 41-7.

My lede for the L.A. Times may have, in hindsight, been childishly dismissive:

“Turns out West Virginia is no more a national championship team than Jed Clampett was a linguist.”

Ouch.

Fast-forward to 2006 and I’m driving up Route 19 out of Morgantown to visit the hovel of Grant Town, birthplace of Rich Rodriguez, the rising star coach ready to lead his alma mater to the national title.

“That dirt road, up that holler, that’s me,” Rodriguez said.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

Rankman got so excited he made West Virginia his preseason No. 1 team for 2006.

West Virginia, again, raced to an 11-0 start before losing, at home, to Pitts, in a confounding defeat that will haunt Rich Rod to his grave.

But here’s the thing: I’m loving West Virginia again despite the defense allowing 109 points last year—and that was just to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

I’m loving WVU again despite trusting head coach Dana Holgorsen about as much as I trust his hair in a windstorm.

I’m loving WVU despite it going 7-6 last year and losing its bowl game to Utah, the only Pac 12 school to notch a post-season victory.

I’ve been loving on the Mountaineers since quarterback Will Grier, the transfer from Florida, announced he would return for the 2018 season.

Grier could, easily, keep the Heisman in the Big 12 family a year after Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield took home the trophy. Last year, passed for 3,490 yards and 34 touchdowns and he is one of seven returning starters on what could be the nation’s most exciting offense. The rush defense will have to upgrade from “stinks” but defense seems to less important than it used to be.

Georgia allowed 48 points and 531 total yards in last year’s Rose Bowl…and won!

West Virginia has a huge Sept. 1 statement moment when it plays Tennessee in Charlotte. The Mountaineers also get TCU and Oklahoma in Morgantown this year.

“We welcome expectations,” Holgorsen said this summer. “We want you guys to talk about us.”

What’s not to like, we've said more than once, but are saying again, about West Virginia.[/membership]

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