TCU (5-3) @ #19 West Virginia (5-2)
- Game Time: 2:00 (CDT)
- TV: FOX
- Sirius Channel: 138
- The Spread: West Virginia -5
It's the Big 12. It's TCU and West Virginia!
Take yourself back to just over a year ago when few people had any idea that just 12 months later, there would be Big 12 game previews being written between West Virginia and TCU, both of who happened to be in other conferences at the time. Or at least not as far as the Big 12 was concerned.
I mean, the Big 12 was happy with ten teams, right (sounds familiar)? Not to mention, TCU was on their way to join West Virginia in the Big East. This should be a Big East game preview, no?
But as we all found out soon enough, conference realignment wasn't finished. The people running Texas A&M got antsy and Missouri decided enough was enough and so here we are.
While losing A&M and Mizzou was unpleasant at the time, it's nothing more than water under the bridge at this point. They're gone, for better or worse, and West Virginia and TCU were more than happy to take their place which was undoubtedly for the better. Both have been and will continue to be great additions on the football field, although each have already taken their share of body blows as they get adjusted to the new surroundings.
West Virginia was flying high to start the season winning their first five games which included their first two Big 12 wins over Baylor and Texas. They torched Baylor for 70 points and went into Texas and came out with a three point victory and a top five ranking.
The high-flying act was short lived, however, after the wheels came flying off in Lubbock. The defense that had surrendered 108 points in their first two Big 12 wins was further exposed and this time their Air-Raid offense was nowhere to be found to bail them out.
The story repeated itself the following weekend when Big 12 leading Kansas State came to Morgantown and left with a 41 point win in their back pocket.
TCU also got off to a fast start, although in much less dramatic fashion. The four wins to start the season were expected to an extent given the competition. What wasn't expected was losing their starting quarterback and best running back in the process.
Waymon James suffered a season ending knee injury in the second game against Kansas which preceded quarterback Casey Pachall being arrested for driving under the influence four games into the season and subsequently deciding to give football a break to enter substance abuse treatment.
Since then TCU has dropped three of its last four games including a 56-53 loss to Texas Tech in triple overtime two weeks ago.
So where does that leave us for Saturday's game which will be only the second time in history these two programs have met on the football field?
That's probably a question both Dana Holgorsen and Gary Patterson wish they knew the answer too.
West Virginia had a bye week following their 55-14 loss to K-State to try and sort out the issues that have plagued them the last two times out.
The Mountaineers' defense has been a train wreck in Big 12 play. In four conference games, they given up 53 points a game. The problems have been twofold. One, Joe Deforest is in his first season as a defensive coordinator. Not only is he learning on the job, but so are his players who have had to adjust to new schemes and a new way of going about their business entirely.
And two, inexperience. Against Kansas State, the Mountaineers played six true freshmen on defense and four more redshirt freshmen. Regardless of their talent level, that's a recipe for disaster with so many young guys on the field at the same time especially given the offensive firepower they've been forced to try and defend.
West Virginia, TCU feels your pain. The Horned Frogs have played 16 true freshmen, and 28 freshmen overall, this year to help deal with the losses from graduations, injuries, and suspensions. That's a mind boggling number, but it hasn't stopped the Horned Frogs from being competitive every time out. Their biggest loss happened last weekend to Oklahoma State by 22 points in a game that wasn't decided until the middle of the fourth quarter.
TCU, Keys to the Game:
1. Turnovers. No surprises here. In TCU's three losses, they've turned the ball over 11 times and gotten only three in return. In their five wins, they are +10 in turnover margin. Sometimes the game isn't really that complicated.
2. Trevone Boykin. The redshirt freshmen has had his ups-and-downs since taking over for Pachall. Saturday in Morgantown would be a good time to be up. The West Virginia secondary has been absolutely torched this season and TCU has more than enough talent at wide receiver to exploit the WVU defense, yet again. Will Boykin be able to get them the ball?
West Virginia, Keys to the Game:
1. Find their offensive rhythm. Say what you want about the Mountaineer defense, but it becomes much less of an issue when West Virginia is putting big points on the board. Dana Holgorsen needs to get Geno Smith going early to help find the spark they had going early in the season when Smith seemed like a near lock for the Heisman trophy. If Smith is everything he's cracked up to be, here's guessing he responds with an impressive showing.
2. Slow down the TCU ground game. As bad as their pass defense has been, the Mountaineers have been decent in stopping the run most of the season. The Horned Frogs ground game has suffered a bit due to the injuries, but this is still a Gary Patterson coached team and you know he wants to run the ball. If West Virginia can stop the run, it will at least force a freshmen quarterback to have to beat them.
This is tough, really tough.
When a game is close, who usually wins that game? The team with the better defense. Who has the better defense here? That would be TCU.
If West Virginia's past four games are any indication, TCU is going to be able to score points. West Virginia has been able to stop no one over that span and even if there is improvement coming off the bye week, how much better can they really be, even if TCU's offense isn't as explosive as the others they've seen thus far?
On the other side, West Virginia's offense has been explosive, yes. But they've also been explosive against Baylor and Texas who happen to have two of the worst defenses in the Big 12. Against the two best defenses they've faced (Tech and KSU) they've scored a combined 28 points.
West Virginia will likely top that on Saturday, but it still won't be enough because the Mountaineers will have trouble containing guys named Boyce, Carter, Dawson, and Brown, otherwise known as TCU's wide receivers.
TCU picks up a hard fought road win and becomes bowl eligible as a result. TCU 38 West Virginia 34.