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COLLEGE FOOTBALL | TOP 25 COUNTDOWN

No. 8 WEST VIRGINIA

West Virginia quarterback Pat White is back for his senior season.
West Virginia quarterback Pat White is back for his senior season. (Jeff Gentner - AP)
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Friday, August 22, 2008

The Basics

2007 record

11-2, 5-2 in the Big East (beat Oklahoma, 48-28 in the Fiesta Bowl)

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Returning Starters

8 offense, 4 defense

Key Game

vs. Auburn, Oct. 23

Player to Watch

Pat White,

senior quarterback

One of the nation's most dynamic players, White passed for 1,724 yards and 14 touchdowns and ran for 1,335 yards and 14 touchdowns. To strike a Heisman pose, White must become a more proficient passer this season.

Why They're Worth Watching

If the Mountaineers' 48-28 upset of Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl was any indication, first-year coach Bill Stewart will maintain excitement in Morgantown, W.Va. It certainly won't hurt that he'll have White and running back Noel Devine, a 5-foot-8, 170-pound slippery bowling ball, returning to a team that averaged 39.6 points a game and has much of its offense returning. With speed, elusiveness and power, Devine ran for 627 yards and an 8.6 yards per carry average as a backup to since-departed Steve Slaton. Accenting Devine will be an experienced offensive line that features eight players with starting experience, including standout left tackle Ryan Stanchek and left guard Greg Isdaner. When healthy, the tandem is one of the best left sides in college football. They need to stay healthy, a difficult proposition last season.

Why They're Vulnerable

The Mountaineers have defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel back despite a mass exodus of much of Rich Rodriguez's staff to Michigan, and it will be up to Casteel to prove that his 3-3-5 defense can complement the high-powered offense. The five members of the secondary will be crucial to that development, with extra safety Quinton Andrews returning as a field rover. The Mountaineers also have their top two tackles, seniors Reed Williams and Mortty Ivy, back. Much of the rest of the defense remains an unknown. Offensively, White must become a capable passer. Early reports indicate new offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen will rely on a passing game more than the previous coaching staff, and it is unknown whether White can carry the load. The staff is a question mark, too. Only two coaches remained with Stewart. For a team that has won 11 games in three consecutive seasons, that disruption might become costly.

-- Zach Berman

Tomorrow

No. 7 Louisiana State.

Previously

No. 25 Arizona State, No. 24 Alabama, No. 23 Cal, No. 22 Penn State, No. 21 Wake Forest, No. 20 Wisconsin, No. 19 Tennessee, No. 18 Oregon, No. 17 Illinois,

No. 16 Kansas, No. 15 BYU, No. 14 Virginia Tech, No. 13 South Florida, No. 12 Texas Tech, No. 11 Texas, No. 10 Auburn, No. 9 Clemson.


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