West Virginia football appears to be on an upward trend. Since the 4-8 debacle of the 2013 season, WVU has won 7, 8, and 10 games in the subsequent seasons. They were able to climb into the Top 10 briefly last year, and this year find themselves ranked 23rd in both polls, despite heavy graduation losses from last year’s team.
But something has been missing from this climb, something that WVU must do in order to continue its climb up the ladder: beating a ranked team. Three years ago, the Mountaineers upset a Top 5 Baylor team, which was the first big statement that WVU would be coming back from that losing season. Since then, they have faced eight teams that were ranked in the Top 25 at game time. And lost all eight. They have a chance to end that streak this Saturday, but it will not be easy.
TCU is in the Top 10 of both major polls, and the Horned Frogs have already gained a signature win this season, at then-Top 10 Oklahoma State. They have done it with a potent offense that is near the top of the Big 12 (and nation) in scoring offense and rushing offense. The star of the offense has been running back Darius Anderson, who keyed the upset over the Cowboys, with over 160 yards on the ground. He can also be dangerous out of the backfield as a receiver. He is not alone, however, as a dangerous offensive player. The Frogs are loaded at wide receiver with plenty of small, quick receivers (some Redskins fans may remember their “Smurf” receiving corps). The most dangerous is KaVonte Turpin, who is also a kick return threat. But there are others: Desmon White, Shaun Nixon, Jaelen Austin, Jalen Reagor, and John Diarse are all dangerous. The quarterback getting the ball to this crew is former Texas A&M player Kenny Hill. In the past, Hill
has had issues with inconsistency. This season, he has been very effective, as the TCU offense has taken pressure off of Hill. They rely on a great rushing attack, and safe passes to their quick receivers, who are counted on to gain yards after the catch.
[private] Tackling well will be extra important this week, especially because of TCU’s reliance on safe passes. I do think it is still possible to rattle Hill into making bad passes, but WVU’s defense hasn’t really shown the ability to pressure quarterbacks. One thing that may be interesting is that while the defense has a troubling habit of giving up big plays, those are often blown coverages, which might be not as bad against a short-pass offense. Of course, Anderson may still break long runs, and TCU could look at game film and elect to be more aggressive with their passes.
Defensively, the Frogs have been pretty solid. They aren’t dominant like some of their past defenses, but they have been well above average. They hassled Okie State’s Mason Rudolph to his worst game of the year so far, and held Arkansas rushing in check. Much like WVU, they have shown a tendency to give up a big play. The Mountaineers have had several big plays already this year, so look for at least a few long touchdowns. If they put their mind to it, the Mountaineers should also be able to mount a reasonable rushing game against TCU as well.
If the game were in Morgantown, I’d be more optimistic. But it’s in Fort Worth, and TCU will be looking for revenge after getting held to just 10 points last year in a WVU rout. I do think WVU will score some points, but I have concerns about giving up too many points. TCU, 48-40.
Notes: Kickoff is at 3:30, and the game will be on Fox Sports 1. The ESPN Gameday pre-game will be in Fort Worth, and that will start at 9:00. Right before noon, you can see the whole gameday crew pick TCU to win…The #9 women’s soccer team won at Kansas State, 1-0 to bounce back from its loss to undefeated Texas…The #1 rifle team looks even stronger than last year. They knocked off Ohio State, and set a new team and NCAA record in the air rifle portion of the match.