Colleague Mark Schlabach is back with another early Top 25, this time his post-spring edition. And he's bullish about West Virginia.
Schlabach didn't have the Mountaineers ranked in his pre-spring Top 25 but now has them all the way up to No. 14. He writes:
"On the field, West Virginia's transition to coach-in-waiting Dana Holgorsen's spread offense seemed to be pretty seamless during the spring. Quarterback Geno Smith threw for 388 yards with four touchdowns in Friday night's spring game (albeit against the No. 2 defense), and Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey looked like big-play weapons. Whether WVU's progress carries over into the 2011 season might depend on what happens behind closed doors. Can Holgorsen coexist with Mountaineers coach Bill Stewart, who wasn't exactly ready to retire after the 2011 season? WVU must still find a No. 1 tailback and replace seven starters on defense. The Mountaineers are going to score a ton of points on offense with Holgorsen at the controls, which will probably be enough to send Stewart out with a Big East title."
No other league schools made Schlabach's Top 25. West Virginia is eight spots ahead of future Big East member TCU, for what it's worth.
My take: I think West Virginia deserves to be a preseason Top 25 team, but 14th seems awfully high to me. There are still questions at tailback, on the offensive line and at several spots on defense, not to mention the concerns raised about the kicking game this spring. The Mountaineers should be the preseason favorites to win the Big East, however, and their ceiling is very high if everything comes together. Schlabach is betting on the power of Holgorsen; I'd like to see a little more in fall camp from the Mountaineers before I'd rank them that high.