The Texas Longhorns and West Virginia Mountaineers staged a thriller last year in Austin that was capped by WVU quarterback Will Grier lumbering into the end zone on a two-point try to give his team a 42-41 win.
What can the two squads do for an encore in 2019? Given that the Mountaineers are facing a steady rebuild under first-year head coach Neal Brown, another shootout seems less likely. For his part, Texas head coach Tom Herman would probably appreciate a less strenuous game as his team prepares to take on rival Oklahoma in a week.
The double-digit line on the game suggests the oddsmakers believe the Longhorns won’t have much trouble securing a W. If WVU plans to score another upset, it will take a far better showing than anything we've seen from the Eers so far this year.
Texas at West Virginia
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 5 at 3:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Texas -11
When Texas Has the Ball
The Longhorns continue to build around quarterback Sam Ehlinger and a methodical running game. That could threaten to overwhelm a WVU defense that got battered on the ground by the likes of Missouri and Kansas.
The Mountaineers will probably need to devote extra resources to stopping the run, opening up opportunities for Ehlinger and the UT receiving corps to stretch the field via one-on-one matchups on the perimeter. With receiver Collin Johnson hobbled, Brennan Eagles has shown promise as a downfield threat. Look for the lanky sophomore to get plenty of attention from Ehlinger in the passing game.
A couple of big plays early in the game would allow UT to play conservatively in the second half. That sounds ideal for Herman with Oklahoma on deck.
When West Virginia Has the Ball
After a slow start to the year, WVU got its running game on track in the last two games. The Mountaineers averaged 6.2 yards per rush versus NC State and four per attempt against Kansas, thanks in large part to the backfield duo Kennedy McCoy and Leddie Brown combining to run for nearly 250 yards over the two-week span. That has made up for an aerial attack that has sputtered through four games.
Unfortunately for the Mountaineers, the strength of Texas' defense lies in the ability to nullify the run. UT is allowing a meager 3.4 yards per attempt even after taking on the nation's leading rusher, Chuba Hubbard of Oklahoma State.
UT's pass defense is another matter entirely. Can QB Austin Kendall take advantage of an injury-riddled secondary?
In three years under Tom Herman, Texas tends to save its best efforts for top opponents. Conversely, the Longhorns have often found themselves slogging through the games immediately preceding hyped matchups.
In other words, history says the Mountaineers won't see everything Texas has to offer on Saturday. Herman will likely save some wrinkles for the Sooners.
WVU is so overmatched that the odds this game will ever be seriously in doubt are slim. The Longhorns won't show much, but that will be enough to keep the Mountaineers from threatening them. A late WVU score should make a yawner look closer than it truly was.
Prediction: Texas 31, West Virginia 21
— Written by Allen Kenney, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Kenney is founder and editor of BlatantHomerism.com and host of the Blatant Homerism Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @BlatantHomerism.