Texas enters its upcoming game with West Virginia under circumstances that are all too familiar in Austin lately – fighting for bowl eligibility. Tom Herman’s first season with the Longhorns has shown flashes of promise, but not nearly enough to match the fanfare that accompanied his hire.
Meanwhile, WVU still harbors flickering hopes of a spot in the Big 12 title game. To get to Arlington, the Mountaineers have to hold serve this week in Morgantown.
WVU will look to quarterback Will Grier to lead its prolific offense past UT’s stingy defense in a game where the stakes remain high for both sides.
Texas at West Virginia
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 18 at 12 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: West Virginia -3
Three Things to Watch
1. The resistable force and the movable object
The Longhorns’ running game is among the worst in the Big 12. UT is churning out a shade under 3.5 yards per carry, eighth in the conference. Their last four outings includes games in which they ran for totals of 42 and nine yards.
Opponents haven’t had much of an issue moving the ball on the Mountaineers on the ground. WVU’s undersized defensive front is playing a big role in its shoddy run D, which is allowing 4.7 yards per attempt. That’s the second-worst mark in the conference.
Running the ball effectively is a must for the ‘Horns if they want to spring this upset.
2. Connor Williams’ return?
If Texas wants to run the ball, having Williams back in the lineup would help.
UT’s star offensive tackle suffered a leg injury versus USC in the third week of the season. In addition to its effect on the ground game, his absence left opposing defenses to tee off on QBs Shane Buechele and Sam Ehilnger all year.
Williams started practicing again this week, prompting speculation that he might play versus WVU. That would represent a major boost to the team’s offense.
3. Handling the weather
The forecast for Morgantown on Saturday is chilly and rainy, a far cry from the weather in sunny Austin. A wet field might favor the Mountaineers, who have the stronger running game of the two teams. They also have more experience playing in the cold.
Texas should pull for the rain to hold off until later in the day.
The oddsmakers see this as a virtual toss-up, installing the home team as a field goal favorite. Finding a compelling angle on the game is admittedly difficult.
Even with star defensive back Holton Hill suspended for the rest of the year, UT has a defense that is built to slow down WVU’s spread attack. That kind of defense travels for road games, especially if the weather is less than picture-perfect.
Nevertheless, Texas’ offense doesn’t inspire much confidence lately. The Longhorns can keep Will Grier and WVU’s offense in check to start the game, but it won’t matter if their O can’t put together drives consistently.
The Mountaineers will find the end zone often enough to pull out a win.
Prediction: West Virginia 27, Texas 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.