By DEREK REDD
CHARLESTON - The outlook on the West Virginia University football team's season, at least in the conference media's eyes, has changed drastically over one year.
Last year, the Mountaineers were picked to finish second in the conference. This year, voters see WVU in eighth place, ahead of only Kansas State in ninth and Kansas in 10th.
Oklahoma, the defending conference champ, was the overwhelming favorite among the 77 media voters. Sixty-eight of them voted for the Sooners, while the other nine voted for Texas, which was picked to finish second.
It's the seventh time since 2011 that Oklahoma was picked first in the preseason poll.
As for WVU, a slew of new faces, including those on the coaching staff, are among the reasons for the low preseason rating. Neal Brown arrived in the offseason from Troy to replace current Houston coach Dana Holgorsen and brought many of his former Trojan assistants with him.
In his first year, Brown won't have many of the offensive weapons that Holgorsen enjoyed in his final year with the Mountaineers. Quarterback Will Grier, who finished fourth in last year's Heisman race, is gone after being selected in the third round of the 2019 NFL Draft by the Carolina Panthers.
Grier was one of six players from 2018 that are now in NFL camps.
Others include offensive lineman Yodny Cajuste, receivers Gary Jennings and David Sills and tight end Trevon Wesco on the offensive side while linebacker David Long - the 2018 Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year - is also now in the NFL.
In addition to the losses to the NFL, West Virginia has endured its share of players who have left the program, also.
Receiver Marcus Simms originally entered the NCAA transfer portal, but now looks like he'll enter the NFL supplemental draft while both starting safeties have also departed. Kenny Robinson has yet to find a new home, but Derrek Pitts Jr. has moved on to Marshall.
Iowa State was picked to finish third, with TCU fourth, Oklahoma State fifth, Baylor sixth and Texas Tech seventh. The four teams with new coaches - Brown, Matt Wells at Texas Tech, Chris Klieman at Kansas State and Les Miles at Kansas - were picked in the bottom four in the preseason poll.