No. 7 West Virginia at No. 9 Texas
Saturday, 7:00 PM Fox
Line: Texas -6.5
The Mountaineers and Longhorns clash in a top ten Big 12 matchup that will help to separate the conference’s elite from the upper-middle class. We know West Virginia can put points up in bunches and Texas is no slouch, but let’s talk defense (or lack thereof).
West Virginia’s is made of vintage Swiss cheese (No. 36 rushing /No. 122 passing/No. 96 scoring) and Texas has allowed 21 plays of 20-plus yards (14 of those passing) against overall weak competition.
For West Virginia to Win: On offense, there’s this guy, Geno Smith, throws a pretty football. However, Texas’ pass defense is much better than Baylor’s. Don’t be surprised to see Andrew Buie get some carries to throw the ‘Horns off Smith’s scent. The old gold and blue wagon isn’t broke, so there’s no reason to fix it.
On defense, while Texas running back Joe Bergerson will likely be used to force WVU linebackers Terrence Garvin and Josh Francis to play the run, those two have to stay focused to keep David Ash in check.
The Longhorns like to throw on second down and in manageable third down situations. West Virginia has to force Bergerson to the outside while making Texas receivers Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley earn every yard.
However, to be blunt, this secondary will give up yardage. They’ve surrendered 21 plays of 20-plus yards through the air and 11 of 30-plus this season. WVU’s defensive mindset: minimize the damage.
For Texas to Win: On offense, a steady dose of Bergeron sets up the Longhorns’ passing game. Was he extremely effective against Oklahoma State? No, but he can wear out the West Virginia front four to give David Ash time to shred that incredibly weak Mountaineer secondary.
Receivers Davis and Shipley can be used on some short and intermediate passes early on forcing West Virginia to eventually play them deep. Keeping the WVU secondary on their heels gives the Longhorns a great shot to win.
On defense, Texas gave up nearly seven yards per carry and two touchdowns against Oklahoma State, but as silly as it sounds, they need to force Geno Smith to throw. Buie isn’t Smith on his best day, but then again, who is? Texas’ Quandre Diggs and Kenny Vaccaro have combined for five interceptions this season. Smith hasn’t been picked off once.
Key Player, West Virginia: Geno Smith – Shocking, yes. Smith doesn’t get this honor just because he can torch defensive backs. He’s a leader, has swagger and his team listens to him. They feed off of his confidence and that’s what championship squads need. As bad as West Virginia’s defense has played, this team has a chance to win every game thanks to Smith’s abilities and his belief in not only himself, but everyone around him.
Key Player, Texas: David Ash – Ash has stepped up and been nothing if not an efficient quarterback for the Longhorns thus far. Going against West Virginia’s defense isn’t going to tell us much about his passing ability as many a grandmother could throw a few rockets into a receiver’s hands against the Mountaineers.
If Ash maintains that steady level of play against West Virginia, he could find himself singing the school song at the end of the night.
Key Stat: 3 –The number of times Geno Smith’s been sacked through four games.
Get behind the blast shields as yet another scoring explosion may erupt in Austin courtesy of Dana Holgorsen.
More opinion and snarkery await! Follow Brandon on Twitter: @eightlaces