FACTS & STATS: Site: Amon G. Carter Stadium (45,000) -- Forth Worth, Texas. Television: ESPNU. Home Record: WVU 3-1, TCU 3-1. Away Record: WVU 0-3, TCU 0-3. Neutral Record: WVU 0-1, TCU 0-1. Conference Record: WVU 1-4, TCU 1-4. Series Record: Series is tied, 1-1.
GAME NOTES: Both the West Virginia Mountaineers and the TCU Horned Frogs will attempt to earn a crucial win to keep their postseason hopes alive, as they face off in Big 12 action at Amon G. Carter Stadium.
It has been an up and down season for West Virginia, but recently it has been all downhill. Since a surprising 30-21 victory over Oklahoma State, the Mountaineers have lost three straight games. The most recent of those setbacks was a 35-12 loss at Kansas State. A loss in this game would put the Mountaineers in real jeopardy of missing a bowl game for the first time since 2001.
TCU also has some work to do if it hopes to be playing past November. The Horned Frogs have been a bit more liberal in spreading both their wins and losses. Though they have an identical record overall (3-5) and in league play (1-4), they have lost back-to-back games, while lacking a signature win like West Virginia has. Last weekend the Horned Frogs looked lifeless at home as they were dropped 30-7 by Texas. Road battles against Iowa State and Kansas State and a regular-season finale against Baylor means TCU is in a similar must-win mode.
Josh Boyce pulled in a pass from Trevone Boykin for a two-point conversion in overtime to carry TCU to a thrilling 39-38 victory over West Virginia last year. The win came in just the second meeting all-time between these programs. The Mountaineers won the previous matchup with a 31-14 triumph in the 1984 Bluebonnet Bowl.
The Mountaineers rank seventh in the Big 12 in total yards (395.1 ypg). Three different quarterbacks have seen significant time for West Virginia with Clint Trickett getting the most action. Trickett has completed less than 50 percent of his pass attempts on the campaign, but has thrown for a team-high 951 yards, while having as many touchdown passes as interceptions (3). Trickett completed 15-of-28 pass attempts for 237 yards against Kansas State. Paul Millard (53-of-93, 618 yards, three TDs, two INTs) might also take some snaps.
Charles Sims' decision to transfer from Houston has not panned out as well as he might have liked in terms of wins and losses. However, Sims has been at the forefront of the Mountaineers' rushing attack as he owns team-highs in carries (120), yards (600) and is tied for touchdowns (four). Sims also leads the team in receptions with 33, for 265 yards and an additional score. Dreamius Smith (394 yards, four TDs) is also utilized often on the ground.
Aside from Sims, Daikiel Shorts (31 receptions, 332 yards, two TDs) has been the most productive pass-catcher in terms of receptions, while Ronald Carswell (20 receptions, 413 yards, two TDs) is the big-play threat with an average of 20.6 yards per reception and a team-best in receiving yards.
The Mountaineers have struggled defensively, allowing 30.4 points and 452.5 yards per game to opponents, which has them ranked ahead of only Iowa State among squads in the Big 12. West Virginia is also only topping Iowa State in sacks (11) in the league, giving teams ample time to set up each play. Jared Barber and Darwin Cook are each tied for the team lead with 51 tackles, while Cook has brought in four interceptions, tied for most in the league.
The big news for TCU against Texas was the return of quarterback Casey Pachall. He did not exactly impress in his comeback though, as he completed just 13-of-34 pass attempts, for 139 yards, while being intercepted once. Pachall will likely start this weekend, but if not, Boykin (103-of-174, 1,176 yards, five TDs, seven INTs) will be the one throwing passes for the Horned Frogs.
Boykin may still get some snaps due to his ability to pick up yards on the ground, as he is second on the team with 271 rushing yards. However, it is B.J. Catalon (366 yards, five TDs) that has been the most productive rusher.
Having very little consistency at quarterback has meant terrible numbers for TCU receivers. LaDarius Brown (23 receptions, 216 yards, TD) is the only player on the roster with more than 20 catches or 200 yards. Brown was the offensive star for the squad against the Longhorns, as he pulled in seven passes for 87 yards and a touchdown, all season-highs.
Overall TCU has been better than only Kansas among Big 12 schools in total offense (319.8 ypg), while scoring a little more than West Virginia (23 ppg) each week.
Gary Patterson's teams have always been built around defense. TCU is still getting it done in that regard, ranking third in the Big 12 in total defense (349.8 ypg) and fifth in points allowed (22.8 ppg). The biggest strength of the unit is creating negative plays, as the Horned Frogs have a league-leading 68 tackles for loss. TCU also has a number of ball hawks who have helped it collect the most interceptions (15) in the league.
Neither of these teams has been impressive on offense. TCU's advantage comes on defense in this contest and is the reason why the Horned Frogs should be able to claim a victory.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: TCU 28, West Virginia 20
Saturday, November 2, 3:30 p.m. (et)