The Texas Longhorns (4-5, 3-3) come into Morgantown off a dominating 59-20 win over Kansas last week. Unfortunately they are still recovering from a 23-9 loss to Iowa State the week before.
West Virginia (4-4, 1-4) was just happy to get out of the month of October. Their victory over Texas Tech last week was their first in over a month. It looks as though the Mountaineers will be looking to become bowl eligible soon while the Longhorns have some work to do in order to reach the post season.
Both teams are evenly matched; do not expect a high scoring game here as ball control will be the plan of the day.
Texas at West Virginia
Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET (Saturday)
TV Channel: ESPNU
Spread: West Virginia -8.5
Three Things to Watch
1. West Virginia run game
Wendell Smallwood is having a career season that has been overshadowed mostly by the Mountaineers' losing streak. Smallwood rushed for 163 yards on 22 carries last week in the win over the Red Raiders. Pair that with Rushel Shell’s 111 yards on 14 carries and what you have is a solid one two punch in the backfield.
The Longhorns' run defense is currently ranked 89th in the country allowing 187.2 yards per game on the ground. If the Mountaineers are able to develop the same kind of ground game this week as they were last Texas could be in for a long day.
West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen said earlier this week that the Mountaineers have turned into a “ground and pound” offense. Expect West Virginia to keep the ball on the ground most of the game, something that should concern the Longhorns.
2. Jerrod Heard
Just like Texas should be concerned with West Virginia’s running game, the Mountaineers should be concerned with the mobility of Longhorn quarterback Jerrod Heard.
West Virginia has struggled to contain mobile quarterbacks this season. Both Trevone Boykin and Patrick Mahomes have been able to effectively extend drives with their feet against the Mountaineers.
Heard will definitely be the X-factor for the Longhorns' offense on Saturday. With a passing attack that is almost non-existent and a West Virginia secondary that has been prone to shutting down the pass, Heard will have to rely on his legs to move the ball.
3. Which defense will prevail?
On paper neither defense has looks to be overly impressive. What you have to remember though is the Mountaineers have played the most prolific offenses the Big 12 has to offer. Coming into this game the Longhorns are ranked 97th in the nation in total defense while the Mountaineers are ranked 88th.
With this game likely being a low-scoring affair, defensive stops will probably be plentiful. However, with long sustaining drives being the theme, defensive takeaways will play a huge factor in this game. Whoever is able to win the turnover battle and keep the other’s offense off the field may very well prevail in this game.
Both teams are in desperate need of a win this weekend. Texas may very well fail to become bowl eligible without a win this weekend. On the other sideline the West Virginia head coach is looking to get off the hot seat by finishing the season strong.
Even though the Longhorns and Mountaineers are evenly matched, West Virginia does have the better defense. Do not expect a lot of offensive fireworks in this game. Both teams will rely on ball control and a running attack.
Jerrod Heard will make his presence known in this game but he alone will not be able to carry the Longhorns. The newly established Mountaineer running game will simply be too much for the Longhorns to handle in what will be a close game.
Prediction: West Virginia 24, Texas 20
— Written by Jeremy Simon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and editor-in-chief of BlueGoldSports.com, a must visit for any and all West Virginia Mountaineer fans. Follow BlueGoldSports.com on Twitter @Blue_GoldSports.