The 2012 season ended in disappointment for the West Virginia football team, as the Mountaineers fell far short of their preseason goals in their first run in the Big 12 Conference.
WVU was heralded as Big 12 title contender that was also in the national title picture. Early on, the Mounties looked like they would have a shot at reaching those goals, until a midseason collapse derailed those hopes.
In 2013, expectations will be much lower on a national scale.
West Virginia will be without three of the most productive offensive players in its history—Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey.
While plenty of questions loom on offense, just as many stand on defense.
This team's defensive struggles were well documented throughout last season, and unless major strides are made on that side of the ball, WVU could find itself out of bowl contention.
At the same time, it isn't completely off-the-wall to think that the Mountaineers could actually finish better than they did a year ago.
Bear with me here, as we go back to last season and take a look at why this could be the case.
Before we jump in, I'll go ahead and set West Virginia's over/under record prediction for 2013 at 7-6—exactly where this team finished in 2012.
Let's focus on WVU's five regular-season losses last season.
That sixth loss in the Pinstripe Bowl is essentially a moot point. How the Mountaineers performed in the snow on a baseball field in a bowl game they clearly had no desire to play in doesn't reflect on how talented that team was—and it certainly doesn't translate into how it will perform in 2013.
We all remember the five straight losses.
Two of them were downright ugly at Texas Tech and at home against the eventual conference champion Kansas State.
Another was a tough road loss in Stillwater that was actually a competitive game on West Virginia's part.
Finally, two of the losses each came by just one point—one in double overtime to TCU and the other to the team that finished as the co-Big 12 champion, Oklahoma.
In the end, WVU was painfully close to finishing the regular season at 9-3 and 6-3 in the Big 12. This would have sent the Mounties to a much more desirable bowl destination—likely the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio.
Regardless, it doesn't take an entire scenario of "what if's" to understand that—despite its defensive deficiencies—West Virginia was a better team than its 7-6 finish indicated.
In 2013, if WVU can clear up those defensive deficiencies and head coach Dana Holgorsen can reload his air raid offense as expected, there's a chance that West Virginia could improve on its 2012 record.
As far as the competition goes, the Big 12 will yet again be up for grabs.
There isn't one team that looks unstoppable or vastly superior than the rest of the conference going into the season.
Just like last year, many upsets are going to happen in this conference—and if West Virginia can find itself on the winning side of one or two of those upsets, that 7-6 record could be bested in 2013.
So, with the over/under set at 7-6, place your bets, vote in the poll and comment below on how you think WVU will end up this season.