MORGANTOWN -There's much optimism surrounding the West Virginia football program this season.
The Mountaineers can't do much worse than they did last season. The move to the Big 12 has not been kind to WVU, to say the least.
The memories of Geno Smith carving up the Clemson defense in the Orange Bowl are long gone and have been replaced by images of Kansas fans storming the field and tearing down goal posts after a demoralizing loss for the Mountaineers.
But this season, it'll be different.
This is the year West Virginia proves its worth in the Big 12. It's also the year Dana Holgorsen can finally sit down without feeling hellfire on his fanny.
Without further ado, here are my five bold predictions for the upcoming West Virginia football season:
1. West Virginia will not be blown out of the Georgia Dome by Alabama.
If you're a betting man (or woman), you would be flat-out stupid not to take the under in this game.
The Crimson Tide are favored by 26 points. Are you kidding me? Twenty-six points?
Alabama is a team that doesn't even know who its quarterback is yet. And they're picked to beat the Mountaineers by nearly four touchdowns? C'mon.
While I'm not dumb enough to say West Virginia is going to pull an upset (we'll save that one for later), I realize the Mountaineers possess an offense that is built to score.
I'm saying 'Bama wins by no more than 12 points.
It'll be close. Some may even think an upset is in the making when Clint Trickett hooks up with Kevin White for a long touchdown early on and then looks into the crowd and blows a kiss to Nick Saban's daughter, Kristen, who the world found out Tuesday was the Mountaineers quaterback's childhood sweetheart, but it's not going to happen.
The Tide win it, 35-24.
2. West Virginia will beat Oklahoma at home.
Here's that upset I was talking about. And before you ask me when my latest CAT scan was, hear me out.
The Mountaineers will enter this game with momentum. They'll be playing at Milan Puskar Stadium with a winning record for the first time since September 2012 when they beat Baylor in that epic track meet. (Yes, I've already marked Towson and Maryland as Ws.)
The crowd will be pumped up. The atmosphere will be electric and will resemble the one when WVU upset Oklahoma State the season before.
This is also the game Ishmael ''Icky'' Banks finally returns from his academic suspension.
I think that will be key for the Mountaineers' secondary. Even if he doesn't start, Banks can play the nickel corner role, which gives the Mountaineers three pretty good cornerbacks.
With Daryl Worley, Terrell Chestnut, Karl Joseph, Dravon Henry and Banks, it'll be tough for Trevor Knight to find a lot of success through the air.
Morgantown is no easy place to play either. West Virginia is 57-16 at home during the past 10 years.
But, having said that ...
3. West Virginia will lose on the road to Iowa State.
Do you know what the Mountaineers' record is on the road against Big 12 teams since they've joined the conference? It's 2-6.
West Virginia's overall road record during the past two seasons? That's 3-8.
Unlike the Hunger Games, the odds are not in the Mountaineers' favor.
The Cyclones offense is going to be pretty good, too.
Iowa State racked up more than 1,000 yards of total offense in its final two games of the 2013 season, including 575 yards in a triple overtime victory against the Mountaineers in Morgantown.
The Cyclones also return 11 starters on offense this season, including eight linemen who made up 56 of 60 available starts in 2013.
This loss will lead to ...
4. West Virginia will not advance to a bowl game for a second consecutive season.
Let me catch you up to speed.
After the Mountaineers' 3-1 start, I have them finishing 2-6. Their schedule is brutal. Injuries will occur.
They won't win in Austin, or Lubbock, or Stillwater.
Bryce Petty will be too dominant to stop.
They'll enter the Iowa State game 5-6.
Fans still won't be able to listen to Phil Collins because he reminds them too much of Holgorsen, but ...
5. Dana Holgorsen will remain coach at West Virginia in 2015.
Despite West Virginia having its longest bowl drought since the early '90s, WVU athletics director Oliver Luck will not can Holgorsen.
He's pretty much already said it.
Remember that statement he released last year when everyone was calling for Holgorsen's head? The gist of it was, Luck wants to see improvement.
Improvement isn't necessarily wins and loses.
The building blocks are there. This year's recruiting class is built to compete on the Big 12 level.
It's just still a year away.
Wait until William Crest Jr. can do his thing in 2015.
Tony Viola can be reached via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.