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The Game lives up to the hype this year as (10-1) Michigan traveled to Columbus to take on (10-1) Ohio State for the right to take on Purdue in the B1G Championship. After a grueling battle that took 2 overtimes to decide, it was the Wolverines who stood victorious 36-33 in what was possibly the best game of the season.


The Las Vegas Raiders and the Denver Broncos both won their games Sunday, setting up a week 17 showdown to decide the AFC West. The Raiders toppled the Chiefs 24-14 and the Broncos survived the Jaguars 27-23.


As the final week of the regular season wraps up, teams turn their attention to the conference championships and bowl season. There are some solid match ups to look forward to with big implications.


The Detroit Lions and the Indianapolis Colts won this week, while the New England Patriots and the Minnesota Vikings took losses, all becoming 6-9 on the season.
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    [2019] Big XII Network Season in Review: West Virginia Mountaineers

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    "Take Me Home Country Roads" didn't really seem to apply this year, as West Virginia did all its best work away from the friendly confines of Morgantown. Despite their defense, the Mountaineers rode one of the best offenses in the country to a bowl win--and most of that offense comes back in 2020.


    Prediction: 4-8 (2-5)


    Record: 7-6 (4-3)




    Kansas (L 24-31)
    Arkansas (W 35-17)
    vs. Missouri (L 21-31)
    Washington State (L 28-36)
    Oklahoma (L 9-23)

    at Kansas State (W 41-17)
    TCU (L 34-42)
    at Baylor (W 48-35)
    at Texas (W 27-22)
    at Iowa State (W 29-27)
    vs. Maryland (W 42-38)

    at Pittsburgh (L 9-28)
    Orlando Bowl vs. Virginia (W 33-21)


    Offensive MVP: QB Mohammed Foster: 290-469 for 3604 yards, 26 TD, 7 INT; 58 carries for 417 yards, 3 rush TD


    Defensive MVP: DT Hudson Adam: 12.0 sacks, 45 tackles


    Top NFLHC Draftee: OLB Ahmed London, #77 to the Houston Texans


    Top Freshman Recruit: DT Riley Reardon 6-0 315 Fr Nicholas County (Summersville WV) 3.0 of 4.0 [1-Gap]


    Top JuCo Recruit: ILB Nathan Wilks 6-1 231 So Community College of Allegheny County (Pittsburgh PA) 3.0 of 4.0 [Mike]


    Recruiting Ranking: #97 overall (#10 Big XII)


    Bowl in Review


    West Virginia turned in a dominant offensive performance against Other Virginia, and a pair of touchdowns each from Mohammed and Mohamed carried the Mountaineers to their second bowl win in three years. They trailed only once, and for only 6:10 of game action. Reginald Saunders put the opening points on the board for the Cavaliers with 5:31 to go in the first quarter, and West Virginia took over from there. Mohammed Foster found J.C. Weldon early in the second quarter and Elias Langston later on in the frame to give the Mountaineers the lead for good. Mahamadou Moore then intercepted Matteo Rook with 2:27 left before halftime and set up West Virginia in great field position to extend the lead further. This time, Mohamed Mustafa did the honors with a 4-yard touchdown run with 26 seconds to play. That was too much time to leave on the clock for the Virginia offense, though, and Rook's 38-yard Hail Mary to the endzone was caught by Cameron Beatty to make it competitive again at the half. For 31 seconds of the second half, Virginia was within arm's reach. That came to an abrupt end when Messiah Bernard chased down and sacked Matteo Rook in the endzone for a safety, then Mohamed Mustafa scored his second touchdown of the game on the ensuing West Virginia possession. Rook's second touchdown pass would cut the lead back to 9 points, but the Cavaliers didn't get any closer. Felipe Munoz tacked on a field goal, Mekhi Cringle's interception would snuff out Virginia's most promising remaining drive, and West Virginia's defense would get the job done in the 33-21 win. The Mountaineers closed their season with five wins in six games, and they finish with a winning record in an odd-numbered year once again.


    The Good


    West Virginia's offense was a well-oiled machine, racking up 29.2 points per game despite facing a tougher-than-average slate of defenses--good for the 7th-best opponent-adjusted scoring offense in the country. Mohammed Foster in particular was much improved over last year, dramatically improving his completion percentage (from 55.8% to 61.8%), his yardage total (from 239.0 per game to 277.2 per game), his touchdown total (from 11 to 26) and his interception total (from 12 to 7). He went from promising but inconsistent as a freshman to dependable as a sophomore--and he still has room to grow. He quickly learned how to gel with J.C. Weldon, with whom he connected 89 times for 1293 yards and 11 scores. On defense, Hudson Adam shined, taking home Big XII Defensive Player of the Year honors by recording as many sacks in a season as any Big XII player not named Jeremy Miller. It took some time for the team as a whole to find its rhythm, but it became a wrecking ball when it did. They started 1-4 with 4 games at home. The remainder of their season gave them just one home game--certainly not an enviable position to be in. But those road trips caused the Mountaineers to bond together, and they won on the road. They crushed Kansas State in Manhattan, came home for a loss to TCU, then went back out on the road to upset #7 Baylor in Waco. They flew back to Texas to knock off the Longhorns, flew to Ames to knock off the Cyclones, and won a wild one in a neutral(ish)-site game in Baltimore over Maryland to clinch bowl-eligibility. They didn't win the Backyard Brawl on the road, but they'd finish their world tour with a win in the Orlando Bowl over Virginia. They went 1-4 at home but made up for it by going 6-2 away from home. That's the kind of stuff that brings a young team together.


    The Bad 


    Defense in general was a struggle for the Mountaineers, and it cost them. West Virginia games had the highest over/under of any team in the country bar none: they balanced their 29.2 points scored by allowing 28.3 per game on the other end. Six different teams scored 30 points or more against them; the Mountaineers were 2-4 in those games. That included losses to Kansas, Missouri, and a Washington State team that wound up being a lot better than expected. It also included a 42-34 home loss to 0-6 TCU. In their other two losses (a 23-9 loss to Oklahoma and a 28-9 loss to Pittsburgh), their offense had a rare off game and the defense couldn't do much to keep it competitive. A lot of that was pure talent, which is simultaneously a hard issue to fix midseason but a relatively easy one in the long run. Other than that, it's hard to pick much at West Virginia's season. Outside of the TCU game, they lost to teams that were better than them. They made the most of what they had, beat expectations, and finished with a winning record.


    Future Fears


    West Virginia pulled in the 97th-ranked recruiting class this season. That's alarming on its own. What's even more alarming is the combination of the five recruiting classes that will see the field for West Virginia this season. They pulled in the #28 class in 2015, followed by #57, #83, #112, and #97 in 2019. Half of the meat of that 2015 class (Owen Stover, Ahmed London, Jack Weisensee) is gone, and there are only a few dynamos scattered about the other four classes. The caveat here is that guys like J.C. Weldon, who transferred in after his freshman year, are not included in these rankings but will make a huge impact on the team. But even with that taken into account, West Virginia's power is going to be concentrated in a few positions as a direct result of their prior recruiting record. That was a problem this year, and there will be some positions where it worsens next year. Losing Owen Stover is a serious blow to the offensive line, leaving Prince Calloway as far and away the best offensive lineman returning for them. Losing Jack Weisensee is survivable if redshirting freshman Lamont Carson can fill his shoes. Losing do-it-all outside linebacker Ahmed London is probably the biggest blow to the defense. He was the best player on that defense not named Hudson Adam, there isn't a ready-made replacement for him, and West Virginia was already seriously thin at outside linebacker. Recruiting for depth has become a necessity in Morgantown, but it's also meant that guys who wouldn't start elsewhere are getting major snaps.


    Reasons for Hope


    On the other hand, that exact issue presented itself this year, and the Mountaineers finished with a winning record. They were able to rely on their strengths and mask their weaknesses. Mohamed Mustafa still isn't an every-down runningback, but they figured out how to get him the ball in goal-line situations and he came through with 17 rushing touchdowns. The offensive line doesn't have to be great when Mohammed Foster's so good at throwing on the run and he has the trio of J.C. Weldon, Elias Langston, and Jason Dupree to make plays downfield. Keep in mind that Foster, Mustafa, Weldon, and Langston were all true sophomores this season. They all have room to grow. That offense next year is going to be scary. On defense, they keep three of their four starting defensive linemen--most importantly, Hudson Adam stays. At linebacker, they upgrade from walk-on Zahir Carter to junior college transfer Nathan Wilks. At safety, they retain all-Big XII strong safety Julian Reid as well as rapidly improving free safety Mekhi Cringle. They should be able to keep the worst of their opponents' passing attacks at bay. It's hard to tell whether their defense is going to take a marginal step forward or a marginal step backward. But they return 10 starters from one of the best offenses in the country, and a lot of those starters are going to make a leap heading into their respective junior years. West Virginia ought to contend for the Big XII title next year as long as the defense can hold its own.


    Presented by the Big XII Network


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