EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the latest in a series of articles by Jim Butta, a veteran sports writer for The Parkersburg News and Sentinel, who has served as the beat writer for the Mountaineers.
The analysis is a compilation of research done on each opponent West Virginia will face during the 2012 season.
Much of the information comes from the team's spring prospectus as well as stories written about the program during, and after, its spring drills.
TCU Horned Frogs
The Horned Frogs desire to play in a BCS conference with an automatic berth drove the Mountain West champions to seek "greener pastures." Whether the decision was a sound one won't be determined until the 2012 season concludes.
Offense: TCU is the only team in the nation to return three running backs with at least 700 yards last season. Junior Wayman James led the way with 875 yards and nine touchdowns on 121 attempts, but the starter coming out of spring ball was senior Ed Wesley (120-726, 6 TD). The third member of the triumvirate is senior Matthew Tucker (123-702, 12 TD).
Also back is starting quarterback Casey Pachall. The junior completed 228-of-343 attempts for 2,921 yards and 25 touchdowns with only seven interceptions to lead a Horned Frogs' attack that ranked No. 9 nationally in scoring, averaging 40.9 points per game.
Making things a little more difficult will be the return of only two starters seniors James Fry and Blaize Foltz on the front five.
Defense: When your offense is averaging more than 40 points per game, the defense sometimes gets overlooked. However, TCU's prevent unit played well enough at times to help it win 11 games losing by only two points, 50-48, to Baylor and the Bears' Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Robert Griffin III.
Defensive end Stansly Maponga is a star waiting to happen.
That, however, is the only good news as among the four players kicked off the team in February was outstanding linebacker Tanner Brock. Making matters worse for the Horned Frogs is a secondary that was the team's biggest liability a year ago having to go up against a Big 12 conference slate of games that will include some of the top quarterbacks and wide receivers in the country.
Specialists: Gone is four-year starting punter Anson Kelson and placekicker Ross Evans. Look for sophomore Ryan DeNucci to replace Evans if he can hold off a challenge from incoming freshman Jake Oberkrom. Senior Cale Patterson, who has never punted in a live game, appears to be the player to beat out as the team's punter.
The Frogs returned four kicks for touchdowns in 2011 three kickoffs and one punt and should be solid with the return of Skye Dawson, James, Wesley and Brandon Carter.
Outlook: Contending in the Big 12 in their first season in the 10-team league is possible but it won't be easy for the Frogs.
Depth will be an issue, injuries to star players will be hard to overcome, and the loss of four players before spring drills began is never the way you want to enter a new conference.
Can Paschall improve upon the numbers he posted a year ago and can the defense improve upon the 347.4 yards per game it allowed in 2011?
Those questions will key the Horned Frogs run at a Big 12 title and a BCS berth.
TCU dominated the Mountain West in its final season in the conference. But, this is the Big 12. The Horned Frogs, as well as WVU, will have to pick up its game to another level if they want to avoid becoming a cellar-dweller.