The Mountaineers are less than one week removed from their biggest win since joining the Big 12 and head back to Morgantown for a showdown with the TCU Horned Frogs. While everything went right for West Virginia last week, the season has been the opposite for TCU. It’s safe to say Ohio State literally broke TCU and they come into Saturday with a 2-4 conference record. The Horned Frogs also have dozens of players hurt and are into back ups for a lot of crucial positions. TCU has a good defense and is well coached so this one might be a lot closer than on paper but West Virginia definitely has a advantage here.
West Virginia Mountaineers [7-1, 5-1]
West Virginia played in the game of the week last time out, a last second shootout win in Austin to take a spot among the leaders of the Big 12 conference. Will Grier cemented himself in Mountaineer history with a unreal throw in the back of the end zone that hit Gary Jennings in stride. Down one after the score Grier rolled right and into the end zone on a two point attempt that gave the Mountaineers the win. West Virginia now looks like they’ll be in Dallas for the Big 12 championship game in a month. But that’s not all this team wants, the win put West Virginia back in the playoff race, and by winning out it’s definitely possible. Games remaining against TCU, Oklahoma State, and most likely two showdowns with Oklahoma make that very hard to achieve, but it’s possible.
The main reason the Mountaineers are in this position is the offense. Grier and his receiving core of David Sills, Gary Jennings, Marcus Simms, and T.J Simmons is one of the tops in the country and gives opposing defenses plenty to worry about. Grier has now thrown for 2,618 yards and 28 touchdowns. He’s putting together a Heisman caliber campaign and is up there with Kyler Murray and Tua for that award. The offense also can run the ball, they don’t often need to, but on Saturday the Mountaineers rushed for 206 yards and had two huge rushing touchdowns from Martell Pettaway. The offensive line also was tested after all American caliber Left Tackle Yodny Cajuste was ejected after one of more questionable calls in recent memory. Kelby Wickline who’s never started a game before stepped right in and played just as good as Cajuste has this year.
The defense, despite recent struggles, has improved over last years squad and that’s almost fully because of transfers Kenny Bigelow and Jabril Robinson. They gave up 41 points last week but only allowing six points on three late red zone trips was a key that led to the Mountaineers victory. Kenny Robinson is emerging as a playmaker in the back end of Tony Gibson’s 3-3-5 defense and played well against Texas. This Mountaineer defense is so much better against young quarterbacks, especially ones who can’t handle pressure. With a matchup like that this week, it’s shaping out to be a really good day for the Dawgs of the West Virginia defense.
TCU Horned Frogs [4-5, 2-4]
Anything bad that can happen to a football team, has probably happened to the Horned Frogs this year. Everything has been a problem for TCU and every day it seems like the situation gets worse.
They’re without starting quarterback Shawn Robinson for the rest of the year, backup Michael Collins has filled in. He hasn’t been awful but the production they had with Robinson under center just isn’t there. The running game wasn’t existent last week, TCU averaged 2.2 yards per carry and even a okay performance from Darius Anderson couldn’t salvage a running attack. The offensive line is really inexperienced and plenty of defenders get in the backfield quickly. The receiving core took a hit after KaVontae Turpin was arrested and dismissed from the football team. Jalen Reagor is still a solid WR1, but there’s a talent gap after that.
The defense is where this team gives themselves a chance. Ben Banogu is one of the conferences top defensive players. Garret Wallow and Ridwan Issahaku are the teams leading tacklers and are playmakers on that side of the ball. In the secondary of the defense the Horned Frogs are going to be without a lot of their first and second stringers. Patterson even said they were down to their seventh safety getting playing time for this one.
Keys To The Game For The Mountaineers
Let Will Grier Play His Game – The Horned Frogs don’t have the firepower to keep up with this offense when it’s moving. Grier should get the green light to throw the ball a lot. When the Mountaineer offense struggled against Texas it was because of two runs on a set of three downs. That shouldn’t happen.
Defense Needs To Take Care of Business – The West Virginia defense shouldn’t give up double digit points to be honest. The TCU offense is a complete mess and the Mountaineers have strengths at positions that TCU can’t stop. There should be non stop pressure from the front three and nothing should come easy for TCU. The defense should blitz more than usual and the rest should take care of itself.
No Stupid Mistakes – West Virginia is the better squad, they cant keep TCU in the game with penalties or turnovers. Just play the game. That doesn’t mean they can’t show emotion, like the Kansas game that was a mess, but they do need to control those emotions and play smart football.
Keys To The Game For The Horned Frogs
Non-Offensive Scores – The TCU offense doesn’t have the stable to keep up with West Virginia. They need help from the defense and special teams. It’s going to be hard, but stealing points on the road would be a great base to make the upset.
Hold Grier In Check – The TCU defense has so much speed, use it. Get pressure in weird ways and rally around the ball. Make West Virginia win because of the running backs or the defense, dont let Grier beat you. If the Mountaineer defense needs to make plays late in the game, that’s not a situation West Virginia wants to be in.
Don’t Beat Yourself – TCU really needs to play clean and mistake free. The odds are already against them and they can’t make it harder on themselves. But they also can’t be conservative. A turnover on a deep shot is fine, a turnover on a halfback sweep isn’t.
West Virginia needs to come out strong. Coming off the win over Texas, they don’t want to get caught on a let down performance. I think it’s a lot closer in the first half than it should be, but this team with their senior leadership gets things turned around.