Jan. 4
8:30 p.m.
ESPN                     West Virginia vs Clemson

 Michael Carvelli, of The Daily Anthenaeum, answered some questions about West Virginia for us.


BS: The Mountaineers went 9-3, winning a Big East title in Dana Holgerson's first year in Morgantown. How would you assess the job that he has done so far?

Michael Carvelli: I think he did a great job with this team. When you look at everything that happened in the offseason and all of the distractions that they had coming in and some of the problems they've had to deal with during the season, for a first-year head coach, he did a really nice job handling everything. It definitely helped that they had some of the talent they have but when they faced adversity and could've mailed it in the rest of the year, they kept fighting and now they're in a BCS game which is a pretty big accomplishment for someone in his first year as a head coach.

BS: West Virginia is headed to the Big 12. What are your thoughts on this move?

Michael Carvelli: It's going to be a good move. I feel like Athletic Director Oliver Luck knows what he's doing and he wouldn't have made this move if he didn't think it would be beneficial for the school and the Athletic Department as a whole. It might be tough, especially in football, to compete for conference titles at first, but I think they'll fit in really well in most sports.

BS: The offense, led by QB Geno Smith, ranked 7th in the country in passing. Talk about his play and who are his top weapons?

Michael Carvelli: Geno has been fantastic all season. He runs the offense with a ton of confidence and swagger. When the game's on the line, he wants the ball in his hands and if you want to be successful, that's probably what you would want from your quarterback. Stedman Bailey, a redshirt sophomore wide receiver and one of Smith's former teammates in high school, really stepped up this year as the No. 1 target in the passing game. He catches just about everything thrown his way and he's got the ability to make plays in the open field. Then you've got junior inside receiver Tavon Austin who is easily among the most electrifying players in the country to watch in my mind. He makes so many things happen and can make plays that look like they should be stopped at the line of scrimmage go for 15 or 20 yards. When you throw those two guys and then you've got guys like sophomore WR Ivan McCartney (also a former HS teammate of Smith's), senior IR Tyler Urban, senior IR Devon Brown who transferred to WVU from Wake, the passing attack is very explosive.

BS: The defense has struggled this year. What do they have to do to be successful against a potent Clemson offense and who are the key players?

Michael Carvelli: You could easily look at this defense and some of the games it has played and say it struggled, but the truth is, when you look a little closer, it's actually been pretty solid most of the year. It's ranked in the top 30 nationally and - especially in the last three games that WVU needed to win to even have a chance to win the Big East title - it really stepped up and made plays when it needed to. The defense has a lot of leaders who know what it takes to step up and make plays. In my opinion, the best of those guys is senior defensive lineman Julian Miller who I feel is one of the most underrated players in WVU history. He's the leader and, along with guys like Najee Goode, Keith Tandy and Bruce Irvin, he'll have the defense ready to go against Clemson. There are some uncertainties though, especially at safety where junior Terence Garvin who is among the team leaders in tackles is going to be out after knee surgery so they're looking at some inexperience there.

BS: If you could choose one player to have a breakout performance in the bowl game, who would it be?

Michael Carvelli: I'm going to pick two people here and say freshman running back Dustin Garrison and junior running back Shawne Alston. For all of the publicity that the passing game gets, these two guys make up a ground attack that has been extremely effective for this team and it has done a fantastic job of setting things up for Geno and the receivers to make their big plays. The two are the prototypical "thunder-and-lightning" backfield. Garrison is a small guy who can make people miss and make things happen in the open field (sidenote: he ran for an NCAA-best 291 yards against Bowling Green in October) and Alston is the red zone and short-yardage guy who can get a big first down or score in goal line situations. I think they could both have big games against Clemson, even though it might not be reflected as much on the stat sheet. Neither of them really will amaze you with their stats after the game but they make enough plays that they'll be a big part in whether or not this team can come out and win.



Thanks a lot to Michael Carvelli. Check his work out at www.thedaonline.com and follow @Carvelli3

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