Two weeks ago West Virginia got absolutely demolished by Kansas State, and after a week off they will have to bounce back with a win against TCU if they don't want their bowl chances to slip by them. Against Kansas State both the offense and defense were out of sync, and luckily for them that week off might have given them time to get their act back together.
For an offense that played pretty well even during the loss to Texas Tech, it seemed to just disappear against Kansas State. Geno Smith finally showed that he is human after all by throwing two interceptions. Smith did throw one touchdown, but that was far from enough to get the Mountaineers back into the game. The offense did a decent job of running the ball, but it never amounted to anything and if West Virginia wants to get TCU’s defense off balance and break them down, the Mountaineers must establish the running game early. TCU has done pretty well against the run, they’ve allowed just under 100 yards rushing per game, so it might be a long day for the Mountaineer running backs.
The offensive line has to do a better job of opening holes for the running backs to bust through. The other problem with the offensive line is that they are allowing too much pressure on Smith before he even has a chance to spot a receiver and release the ball. The line must do a better job of getting off the snap faster and do a better job at blocking. If the line can do this then Smith will be able to hit his receivers all day long. Against Kansas State, the receivers amassed only 155 total yards and Tavon Austin was their top receiver with six receptions for a disappointing 34 yards and a touchdown. The Horned Frogs’ secondary is allowing 14 yards a catch to opposing receivers, which will bode well for Stedman Bailey and Austin.
The biggest problem for the Mountaineers this season has been their defense. There aren’t enough words to describe how poorly they’ve played this year. The defense had a hard enough time slowing down the Heisman frontrunner Colin Klein, although they might have better luck with dealing with the backup quarterback for the Horned Frogs. Trevone Boykin has filled in for Casey Pachall, who was kicked off the team for being arrested for a DWI earlier this season. Boykin has struggled this year, throwing six interceptions and the Mountaineer defense will need to capitalize on this and pick him off at least twice if they want to get back to the way things were before they started their downward spiral.
The Mountaineer's defensive line also has to do a better job of breaking through the offensive line and applying pressure to the quarterback. Unfortunately; for them, Boykin is just as mobile as Klein was. He has rushed 66 times for 252 yards and two touchdowns. While Boykin isn’t a threat to rush for a touchdown every time he tucks and runs, he can rack up first downs and other big yard plays. The defense has to contain him and limit his rushing gains. If the defense cannot get its act together and fast then Defensive Coordinator Joe DeForest might be looking for a new job very soon.
One player the defense has to look out for is wide receiver Josh Boyce. Boyce has 44 catches for 507 yards and five touchdowns. He will be Boykin’s main target come Saturday, and the way the Mountaineer secondary has been playing lately expect Boyce to have a big game. If the secondary can limit him, then West Virginia might be able to pull out a win. With the bye week they just had this gives the secondary more time to prepare and they might have a pretty good plan of how to stop him.
The special teams was hard at work the last two games, especially the punting team and kick return team. Tavon Austin had an incredible 100 yard kick return for a touchdown against Kansas State. Austin has been a force when the opposing team kicks or punts and most teams have figured out not to kick to him. If he can get some decent returns then that could setup a successful drive for the offense. Tyler Bitancurt was doing the punting duties two weeks ago and he had four punts for 157 yards. Punting has been one of the Mountaineers’ weaker points on special teams and they have used several punters throughout the season. It now looks like Bitancurt might be the main punter and he will need to bring his A game for when the offense fails to convert.
This is a must win game for West Virginia and failure will drop them far out of the BCS rankings and possibly damage any hope they have for getting into a decent bowl game. If the offense can get back to the way it was before the losses to Texas Tech and Kansas then the Mountaineers should have no problem destroying the Horned Frogs. Not only does the offense need to get it together, but also the defense since Joe DeForest’s job pretty much depends on it. Kickoff for this game will be at 3 PM and can be seen on Fox.
Prediction: WVU-55 TCU-34
Player of the Game: Tavon Austin 10 receptions 150 yards 2TDs
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