With a nod to Pat Forde's annual March Madness dream and nightmare scenarios piece, we've been coming up with the dream and nightmare scenarios for every Big 12 team this season. Of course, reality will fall somewhere in the middle. But imagine a season in which every single possible domino fell into place. And likewise, if all that could go wrong, well, did.
We conclude the series with the West Virginia Mountaineers:
The Mountaineers cruise through nonconference play, heading to Oklahoma with a 3-0 record after a 44-31 win over Maryland.
With its huge October stretch looming, WVU gets off to a great start with a surprising road win over OU thanks to a balanced attack led by Rushel Shell and Skyler Howard. The defense creates three turnovers as the Mountaineers win by double digits to improve to 4-0.
A win over Oklahoma State the following week sets up a showdown with Baylor, one of the other unbeaten teams nationwide. The Bears somehow survive a pair of touchdowns from Wendell Smallwood and a breakout performance from receiver Shelton Gibson as BU struggles to stop WVU’s offense. But Seth Russell is just as good, accounting for five touchdowns in BU’s 50-49 home win.
The following week at TCU, Dana Holgorsen debuts a new package built around QB William Crest, who goes toe-to-toe with Trevone Boykin, with both quarterbacks making big plays. Crest is the difference as a reverse pass to Gibson in the final minute helps WVU finish 3-1 in October.
The hashtag "#Crestisbest" starts trending after the game, as WVU is the talk of the nation.
But a beat-up and weary squad suffers a letdown the following week against Texas Tech, as Kliff Kingsbury bests his former roommate to drop WVU to 6-2.
With Crest emerging as a key piece in the offense, the Mountaineers win their final four games and earn a trip to the Alamo Bowl, where they knock off Stanford to finish with 11 wins and “Take Me Home, Country Roads” is heard deep into the night along the River Walk.
Things get off to a slow start after Howard looks inconsistent in the Mountaineers' nonconference schedule, sparking fans to clamor for Crest despite a 3-0 start to the season. Things hit a feverish peak when Maryland almost knocks off the Mountaineers at home after Howard is sacked three times and fumbles twice, but the combination of Shell and Smallwood save the day in a three-point win.
Holgorsen, citing the 3-0 record, sticks with Howard as WVU heads to Norman for its first conference game. The Sooners manhandle the Mountaineers for the second straight season as Samaje Perine and Joe Mixon combine for 250 total yards in a comfortable win.
Still hesitant to throw Crest into the fire, Holgorsen decides to rotate the quarterbacks and go with the hot hand. It doesn’t work, as inconsistency becomes the standard for both signal-callers and October ends with a nightmare of four straight losses to open Big 12 play. The defense is solid but simply can’t hold up during the losing streak, as the offensive struggles result in an average of 82 plays per game on the field for WVU's defense.
Frustrated with his offense, Holgorsen decides the team will bus to the remainder of its road games (Kansas and Kansas State) to "think about what they've done."
After a strong performance in a win over Texas Tech to open November, Crest is handed the reins for the remainder of the season. Texas comes to town the following week and Charlie Strong takes advantage of Crest’s inexperience, forcing him into three turnovers in a Longhorns win.
The redshirt freshman quarterback learns from his mistakes the following two weeks in wins over Kansas -- despite the long road trip to Lawrence -- and Iowa State, but a loss at Kansas State ends WVU’s season at 6-6. Disappointed with a .500 campaign, WVU turns down a bowl appearance.