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Bowl Game? Conference Championship? Realistic Expectations for Neal Brown this season

As West Virginia head coach Neal Brown enters his third year, fans are starting to expect him to bring sustained success to Mountaineer football. 

In his first two seasons as the head coach of West Virginia, Brown has a combined 11-11 record in the regular season, with one bowl win this past season against Army. While that record does not stand out, Brown is hoping West Virginia can build on a strong 2020 campaign. 

This time last year expectations were fairly minimal in Morgantown. Beyond the obvious of it being a weird year due to COVID, this time last year the focus was more on keeping players healthy rather than winning football games. In addition to the pandemic, it was Brown’s second year with a fairly young team. 

This year should be different. Brown has already signed a contract extension through 2026, he is building a Top-25 recruiting class for the class of 2022, and he is raising the level of play for West Virginia football. 

Last season the West Virginia defense seemed to shine almost every week. A defense though that is changing due to the NFL Draft and the transfer portal. Despite the changes, West Virginia fans should still have faith that their defense can keep them in most games. 

Last season West Virginia finished first in the Big 12 in total defense, being the only Big 12 team to average less than 300 yards given up per game. Brown knows what he did schematically last season worked and if he can get similar production that should bode well for the success of this team.

Offensively is where West Virginia ran into a few problems last year. Despite Leddie Brown being the second best running back in the Big 12 last year, averaging 101 rush yards per game, he cannot carry the load and make this offense one-dimensional. Quarterback Jarret Doege must take a step forward in order for this team to have success.

Statistically speaking, Doege did not have a bad year last year. He only threw four interceptions and threw for the third most yards out of all Big 12 quarterbacks. 

The key here I think will be Brown. Brown must utilize Doege’s capability to be smart with the football to create a balanced offense that can keep opposing defense’s off guard. If he can also generate more big plays down the field and find sustained success from his offensive line to be able to protect Doege in the pocket, Brown should have his best year yet. 

Scheduling wise however, this season is not easy. Brown emphasized at Big 12 media days how West Virginia is playing 11 Power Five opponents unlike most teams in the country. Brown also realizes he will have to still deal with the hassle of traveling in the Big 12 while also still keeping his players safe from the pandemic. 

Obviously, this year should not be Big 12 Championship or bust, but after a solid year this past season, fans should expect a step forward from Brown and the whole team, and hopefully can finish in the top half of the league and go to another bowl game. 

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