All week Iâ€™ve been trying to play out in my head how I think the game will go this Saturday at DKR. But each time I run through the game I come up with a completely different outcome. And thatâ€™s what makes this game so interesting. We know the general identity of both teams, but how they respond to the match ups on both sides of the ball is whatâ€™s hard to predict. West Virginia has a high-powered offense, led by Geno Smith, that attacks with its passing game first and its running game second. The Mountaineers are averaging 441.5 passing yards per game (best in the nation) and 157 rushing yards per game. The offense is fast and explosive and can score a lot of points in a hurry. The Mountaineers defense is their weakest part of the team and has given up a total of 130 points this season, which ranks them 96 nationally.
Texas is more balanced across the board, though. The longhorns are averaging 267.8 passing yards and 228 rushing yards per game. With the emergence of David Ash at QB the longhorns can score in a number of ways. Add that to the fact that West Virginia’s defense is one of the weaker units in the Big 12 and that give you a match up that offensive coordinator Brian Harsin will be drooling over.
Here are 5 things Iâ€™m interested in most for this game. (No particular order).
- Secondary: A unit once thought to be one of the best in the nation has not played up to expectations. This group can still make a name for themselves on a national level but it has to start this Saturday. Big plays and missed tackles have plagued the secondary so far this season. I still think they are very talented and have the potential to be one of the best units but they have become to reliant on talent and have not played with the necessary discipline, fundamentals, and effort they are capable of. The outcome of the game will rely largely on how this group plays.
- Geno Smith: This high-powered offense that the Mountaineers are bringing to Austin has all kinds of explosive players across the depth chart. But it all starts with Geno Smith. In addition to the secondary playing well the studs at defensive end and the linebackers for the Horns will need to get good pressure on Geno Smith and prevent him from breaking off a lot big runs out of the pocket. Some big gains may be inevitable, but the number of big runs will need to be controlled.
- Running Backs: When I heard that Malcolm Brown was out I immediately thought back to the Missouri game last year. But luckily this is a different scenario. The longhorns have the luxury of having a stable of running backs who can all run the ball effectively. Before the season I said that there will be a few games where Jonathan Gray will be called upon to carry a bigger load than normal. This will be that game. Bergeron will get his carries but the ability to insert different running backs into the game who have different running styles will be very important. Running the ball effectively and controlling the clock will be huge Saturday night.
- Offensive Line: A work in progress, the offensive line has had its ups and downs. But this game will be about scoring points and it will start with the offensive line opening up running lanes and pass protecting well for Ash. I actually think the offensive line could have their best game of the season. They havenâ€™t been all that consistent but my gut is telling me they put it together for this gameâ€¦ Optimistic? Ya.
- Anthony Fera: For the first time all season we should get a chance to see high touted kicker Anthony Fera play. And it couldnâ€™t come soon enough. The Longhorns will need to get points on every drive, whether it be by touchdown or field goal. And the latter is where Fera will play a big role. Neither of the current kickers Texas has been using have been very reliable so having Fera will be a luxury. Granted, we havenâ€™t seem him kick in a game yet, but he has to be better than what weâ€™ve had so far.
I could see this game being a shoot outâ€¦ But I could also see this game being lower scoring than people may think. Either way I expect a great game and good football. A few players will need to step up for the Longhorns, especially the linebackers, if they want to pull out a win. Jordan Hicks is out and you know the WVU offense will exploit the reserve linebackers and test their ability, as well as the tackling/coverage ability of the secondary. At the same time the Texas offense could exploit the entire West Virginia defense.
The game on Saturday will be played in Austin, Texas. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:00 (CT) P.M. Notable Injuries: LB Jordan Hicks (out), RB Malcolm Brown (out), Anthony Fera (Questionable), Brandon Moore (probable).
Join in on the conversation. What will you be looking for?
Twitter: @WesKCrochet E-mail: Wes.Sports@hotmail.com