West Virginia and Texas Tech are having remarkably similar seasons. Both teams made it through their non-conference schedule undefeated, but since have picked up losses to Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and TCU. Although, the Red Raiders do have a couple of conference wins against Iowa State and Kansas, which accounts for the two additional games they’ve played. There’s also one other difference. The Mountaineers have struggled at times on offense, but has one of the better defenses in the Big 12. Texas Tech has the flip side of that coin with an excellent offense, and terrible defense.
West Virginia is looking to right the ship this weekend, they haven’t won a game since the last weekend of September which was five weeks ago. The Mountaineers can’t afford any slip ups in their last few games if they want to see bowl eligibility again this season. In Morgantown talk is starting to spring up about how safe Dana Holgorsen’s position is, it might take winning four out the last five to secure his future.
Texas Tech is also looking for something, one more win and they’re back to being bowl eligible after last seasons 4-8 debacle. There are also questions swirling around the Red Raiders ability to stop opponents and how poorly they play on the road. The Red Raiders absolutely need a win in this game to restore confidence that the program is heading in the right direction in head coach Kliff Kingsbury’s third season.
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 5th, 11:00 AM CST
LOCATION: Milan Puskar Stadium (Morgantown, WV)
FORECAST: Partly Cloudy with winds 4-6 mph, 52° F
TV: FS1 / FOX Sports Go
BETTING LINE: West Virginia -8, O/U 79
TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS 5-4 (2-4)
Texas Tech’s offense and defense provide an interesting contrast. The Red Raider offense is the best in school history, the unit is scoring 47.3 points and amassing almost 605 yards per game. The defense is also making history as the worst in school history giving up 41.4 points and almost 575 yards per game. The defensive numbers might be skewed by the fact that they’ve played four of the eight top ranked offenses in the country in the last six weeks. Texas Tech has played two more games than West Virginia which means the Mountaineers have played around 150 less snaps in total on both offense and defense this season. Those extra snaps could prove to be the difference between a tired Texas Tech team and their remaining opponents.
KEYS TO THE GAME FOR TEXAS TECH
Score Early and Often – Last week the Red Raiders were able to jump out to an early 17 point lead against Oklahoma State. As their lead started to erode the Red Raiders became more mistake prone and failed to capitalize on their offensive opportunities. If Patrick Mahomes and the offense can score early and build up a nice lead it’ll reduce the pressure on the defense and it could lead to a victory. In their four games away from home this season the Red Raiders have averaged 31.8 points per game which is 28 fewer points than they average at home. Keeping the offense rolling and scoring will depend greatly on the play of the Red Raiders outside receivers, the last few weeks they haven’t gotten much production from Reggie Davis or Devin Lauderdale. In this weeks press conference Texas Tech offensive coordinator Eric Morris said that true freshman Jonathan Giles would get some snaps on the outside to see if they can get some more production on deep passes.
Reduce The Mistakes – In the last couple of weeks the Red Raiders tendency to make mistakes have come back to life. The receiving corps continues to have troubles with dropped passes which more often than not are drive killers. Through the first six games of this season Texas Tech averaged a little more than 1 turnover per game, in their last three games they’re averaging three turnovers a game. While dropped passes and penalties are capable of hindering a drive turnovers kill a teams ability to win. Last week three fourth quarter turnovers killed the Red Raiders chances at a victory, especially Mahomes’ two interceptions.
Run The Clock – This isn’t a suggestion that Texas Tech needs to completely alter their entire offensive game plan, however it would be nice if the offense would give the defense some longer breaks. No defense in the Big 12 logs more plays per game on average than the Red Raiders and it shows at the end of games. West Virginia has played two fewer games than Texas Tech which means that Tech’s defense has played 234 more snaps than the Mountaineers defense, more importantly the Red Raiders defense has been on the field for 159 more snaps than the West Virginia offense. In order to not wear the defense out early a steady dose of DeAndre Washington runs to let the clock run a little would be really helpful.
WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS 3-4 (0-4)
This is not the start to Big 12 play that West Virginia had in mind when they started the season. For the first time a Big 12 team started conference play with four straight Top 25 opponents, the four teams that West Virginia played are all in the top 15. Happily for West Virginia the schedule lightens up and they still have a good chance of getting bowl eligible, the best case scenario for the Mountaineers would be winning out to get to eight wins. Having played three of their last four games on the road it’ll be nice to have three of their final five games at home versus opponents they should be favored to beat.
KEYS TO THE GAME FOR WEST VIRGINIA
Let Smallwood Loose – Texas Tech has the 125th ranked rushing defense in the country. The Mountaineers absolutely have to take advantage of Tech’s weak rushing defense by running it as often as possible. Keeping the Red Raider defense on the field will be key to winning this game. Through seven games this season Wendell Smallwood has been the Mountaineers primary running back, he averages 17 carries and 113 yards per game. The junior running back should find plenty of gaps to run through against a Texas Tech defense that has had a hard time stopping the run.
Pester Pat – Patrick Mahomes has shown himself to be a more than capable passer, as a true sophomore he currently ranks third in the country with an average of 370.1 passing yards per game. He’s also shown that when he’s pressured and trying to create big plays he’ll make bad passes, he’s thrown 12 interceptions so far this season. The Mountaineers will have to get pressure on Mahomes using their defensive line and a few targeted blitzes. The Red Raider running and short passing game are perfectly capable of beating sell out blitzes.
3rd Down Conversions – It’s hard to think of another set of teams that are so different on third down conversions. The Red Raiders are the best on offense at converting third downs at 55% and the worst at stopping third downs at 51.80%. The Mountaineers are the exact opposite as they only convert on third down 38.26% of the time offensively while only allowing an impressive 29.59% of defensive conversions. Something has to give between these two teams and it’s more important for the Mountaineers offense to find a way to stay on the field to keep drives going. Texas Tech will get their points, the Mountaineers can’t afford to fall behind and for the offense to sputter this week.
BY THE NUMBERS
|3rd Down Con||55.00%||38.26%|
|Opp 3rd Down Con||51.80%||29.59%|
|Sacks Given Up||1.44||2.86|
|Redzone Scoring %||88.10%||77.42%|
|Field Goal %||84.6%||71.4%|
Last years game between these two teams was highlighted by West Virginia scoring the last 17 points of the game to beat the Red Raiders on a last-minute field goal. Given the results on the field so far this year it’s hard to tell what is going to happen between these two teams. West Virginia is always a tough team to play at home, however the Red Raiders did have success in their last trip to Morgantown.
Both teams come out ready for a fight with the lead shifting back and forth throughout the first three quarters. The Red Raiders find bowl eligibility with a late win due in large part to a huge week from Pat Mahomes who atones for his previous two weeks with no turnovers.