This Saturday West Virginia’s 2016 season begins at home against SEC foe Missouri. To say 2016 will determine the direction of the program for what could be years to come would be an understatement. Head Coach Dana Holgorsen is on the hottest of hot seats and the calls for change could shift on a weekly basis. With that said the opener against Missouri is likely as important a first game as any in recent history. Here are three reasons why the Mountaineers must come away with a win at home against Missouri Saturday.
1. HOLGORSEN NEEDS TO WIN NOW – As mentioned above Holgorsen did not receive a contract extension in the off season and is squarely on the hot seat heading into 2016. Missouri is one of those games that the administration expects to win. Losing games that are perceived as winnable hurt Holgorsen badly in 2015 (See Kansas State) and one thing the powers that will look at in 2016 is Holgorsen’s ability to win games such as Missouri. This game is one that will hold a lot of water as far as evaluating the Mountaineers success this season. A convincing win will immediately shift the tide in Holgorsen’s favor. It is safe so say there will be a few more “must wins” for Holgorsen this year.
2. THIS MATCH-UP WILL SET THE TONE FOR 2016 – Heading into the season its common knowledge most of the returning talent is on the offensive side of the ball. The defense has had to replace several NFL level caliber players while the offense returns ten players that started at some point last year. Missouri has a decent defense but not one West Virginia’s offense should struggle against. West Virginia’s rebuilt defense gets a very favorable match-up against a below average Missouri offense. If we see both units have difficulty Saturday it will not be a good sign moving forward. Of course on the flip side if both offense and defense perform well the confidence and experience gained from soundly beating an SEC opponent will be extremely valuable. As we know, winning in Morgantown is tied to attendance and the overall excitement surrounding the team. A loss to Missouri will ultimately hurt attendance and in turn game day revenue. It might be unfair but this year game one will determine the path of the season.
3. FAIR OR NOT THIS GAME WILL MAKE A STATEMENT – When West Virginia entered the Big 12 in 2012 they in essence replaced Missouri who left the BIg 12 to join the SEC. Since WVU and TCU joined the Big 12 in 2012 their performance has been compared to the teams that have left the Big 12. The winner of this game will likely silence critics and more importantly possess bragging rights until 2019 when the two teams meet again. In a day and age where perceived conference strength is so vital this game has some hefty implications in the Big 12 vs. SEC comparison. A win will quiet critics who believed WVU was not a worthy replacement for Missouri or Nebraska in the Big 12 and set the tone for the Big 12 in 2016.