The unbeaten and No. 7-ranked TCU Horned Frogs will make their way to Morgantown on Saturday in hopes of keeping their dream season alive against the West Virginia Mountaineers.
TCU (7-0, 4-0 Big 12) is coming off back-to-back games where it trailed early yet fought back and dominated the second half. Under first-year head coach Sonny Dykes, the Horned Frogs have evolved from being just a "tough out" into legitimate College Football Playoff contenders.
West Virginia, on the other hand, has had a frustrating, roller-coaster season. The Mountaineers had a nice win over Baylor two weeks ago but followed that up with a blowout loss to Texas Tech last week. Now sitting at 3-4 (1-3 in Big 12 play), WVU will look to play spoiler at home on Saturday. The Mountaineers have won the last four meetings with the Horned Frogs, so they do have recent history on their side.
No. 7 TCU at West Virginia
When TCU Has the Ball
There's not much that changes about what TCU does from week to week. Everything starts and stops with quarterback Max Duggan. He's a dual-threat gunslinger who will burn you with his legs or toss it over your head. It's a game of "pick your poison" when trying to defend him and the TCU offense, and nobody has chosen correctly so far this season.
Kendre Miller is an NFL-type talent at running back, averaging 104.4 yards per game with 10 touchdowns on the year. When he needs a break, Emari Demercado (6.6 ypc) is almost every bit as effective as Miller with the touches he gets.
Wide receiver Quentin Johnson — another guy who will likely play on Sundays — is Duggan's favorite target. His size and speed combination makes him a matchup nightmare on every route he runs. If Johnson isn't open, Duggan will look to the smaller, shiftier Derius Davis when they need to move the sticks.
Bottom line: TCU's offense is loaded with talent, and the offensive line is playing as well as any in the country right now. West Virginia is better against the run compared to the pass, but this Horned Frogs offense has shown to be a tough one to slow down, regardless of how they try to move the football.
When West Virginia Has the Ball
Quarterback JT Daniels is having an average-at-best campaign this year for the Mountaineers. WVU ranks in the bottom half of the FBS leaderboard in both passing and rushing yards per game. The Mountaineers don't do either particularly well, but they do both good enough (most weeks) to score enough points to stay competitive. They'll need to do that and more to hang with TCU on Saturday.
Everything starts with establishing the run. The Mountaineers deploy a committee of backs in Tony Mathis Jr., CJ Donaldson, and Justin Johnson Jr., who have combined for 1,163 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns on the season. They must be effective in order to put together long, time-consuming drives that keep the explosive TCU offense on the sidelines.
When West Virginia does decide to go the air, the targets tend to go in the direction of Bryce Ford-Wheaton and Kaden Prather. They are a talented duo, and Daniels would do well to get the ball in their hands more often. Whether it's one of them or someone else, the Mountaineers will need to come up with multiple explosive plays if they want any shot at winning this game.
Whether you are going by the eye test or the analytics, it's tough to see any way West Virginia wins this one. The Mountaineers will have the home crowd on their side, but that might be about the only advantage, and there's no telling how long that's the case if this game starts to get away from them early.
Look for Duggan and the TCU offense to put on another show — this time without trailing big — and cruise to an easy win.
Prediction: TCU 45, West Virginia 24
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— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. His work has appeared on SI.com, FoxSports.com, Yahoo! SBNation and Bleacher Report. He is a three-time FWAA writing contest award winner. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.
*Price as of publication.