The Mountaineers pay a visit to Forth Worth Thursday night looking to end an incredibly tough October on a positive note. West Virginia is currently 0-3 this month, losing to Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Baylor. Many are starting to wonder if Mountaineers head coach Dana Holgorsen is now on the hot seat.
Gary Patterson and the TCU Horned Frogs, much like Baylor, are doing exactly what everyone expected. They are putting up huge offensive numbers behind the play of Heisman Trophy candidate Trevone Boykin. However, TCU’s last two games have been a little closer than expected. TCU was jumped on early last week against Iowa State and barely escaped a Kansas State team that was playing musical chairs at the quarterback position.
When these teams match up against one another it is always interesting. TCU has pulled out last-second heroics on more than one occasion to keep the Mountaineers 1-2 against them in Big 12 play. Will the Frogs need another heart-stopping ending to stay undefeated or are the Mountaineers simply not up for the task this season?
West Virginia at TCU
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET (Thursday)
TV Channel: FS1
Spread: TCU -14
Three Things to Watch
1. Mountaineers' Offense
Many may be unaware that the Mountaineers have totaled at least 350 yards in 27 consecutive games, the longest streak in the nation. While it is hard to believe given their recent misfortunes, the Mountaineers have the ability to move the ball effectively.
West Virginia quarterback Skyler Howard has had a rough go of it this month but definitely showed signs of improvement two weeks ago against Baylor. Featured tailback Wendell Smallwood has been battling an ankle injury that has kept him out of practice for the majority of the month.
The Mountaineers receiving corps has a new addition in true freshman David Sills. Playing opposite Shelton Gibson, Sills has shown unexpected skill that earned him a No. 1 spot on the depth chart over fellow freshman Jovon Durante.
West Virginia will move the ball against a TCU defense that has proven to be susceptible to decent offensive attacks. The question will be; can the Mountaineers' offense keep up with the Horned Frogs?
2. Time of Possession
Possibly the only way to beat or at least slow down TCU is to hold on to the ball for as long as possible. Averaging 46.8 points per game this season is impressive. What is even more impressive is the Horned Frogs accomplish this while only possessing the ball an average of 29:23 per game.
The Mountaineers will have to establish and execute a game plan that will allow them to methodically move the ball down the field. Howard will have to rely on short passes and a strong running game to stay with Boykin and company.
If this game becomes a shootout the odds tilt even more in favor of TCU. Time of possession for the Mountaineers will be the key. Simply put, the longer they have the ball the better.
3. West Virginia's Game Day Prep
Boykin can beat you in just about every way imaginable. Accounting for almost 3,000 total yards himself already this season the Heisman hopeful can be just as much a threat with his legs as he is with his arm.
The Mountaineers will have to prepare for the most prolific player they will face all season. TCU averages just over 227 yards per game on the ground with an additional 387 per game in the air.
This may be the toughest chess match West Virginia defensive coordinator Tony Gibson will face in his career. The big-play potential is there every snap and the Mountaineers will not only have to execute at the highest level, but their defense also will have to ensure it knows what’s coming. This is not the game to make guesses; you guess wrong defensively you are in trouble.
The Mountaineers have struggled greatly over the last four weeks. And although they have shown signs of fight in every contest they have yet to be able to put together a full four quarters of football this season in Big 12 play.
The last three contests between West Virginia and TCU have been decided by a total of five points. I do not expect Thursday night to be any different.
Unfortunately for West Virginia, TCU has one of the best teams in school history this season. Although the Mountaineers will be able to stay close the entire game the Horned Frogs are just too experienced and too talented to allow mistakes to derail their season and quest for a spot in the College Football Playoff.
Prediction: TCU 50, West Virginia 44
— 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.