It has definitely been a roller coaster of a season for Texas in 2016. The Longhorns started out with such promise after the victory over Notre Dame. However, things went downhill from there as Charlie Strong’s team lost four of the next six games.
But with the emergence of running back D’Onta Foreman, Texas (5-4, 3-3 Big 12) has won its past two games in impressive fashion over Baylor and Texas Tech.
West Virginia was able to rebound from its first loss of the season, picking up a 48-21 victory at home over Kansas last week. The Mountaineers (7-1, 4-1) still have a legitimate shot at winning their first Big 12 title.
Since joining the Big 12, West Virginia and Texas have split their four meetings. The Mountaineers won last season in Morgantown, so the Longhorns will look to return the favor in Austin and become bowl eligible in the process.
West Virginia at Texas
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 12 at 12 p.m. ET
TV Channel: FS1
Spread: Texas -2
Three Things to Watch
1. Mountaineers’ defense vs. D’Onta Foreman
Texas’ junior running back has been unstoppable lately, as Foreman has rushed for an eye-popping 591 yards in his last two games. That includes a 341-yard effort last week against Texas Tech in which he averaged 10.1 yards per carry.
West Virginia’s defense has allowed just one running back to rush for 100 yards against it thus far. On Sept. 24, BYU’s Jamaal Williams ran for 169 yards while Cougars quarterback Taysom Hill added 106 more on the ground. As good as the Mountaineers’ defense has been against the run, it is for its toughest test yet against Foreman, arguably one of the hottest players in the nation.
With the current tear that Foreman is on expect West Virginia’s defense to stack the box and focus its attention on trying to stop or at least slow down the Longhorns’ freight train.
2. Skyler Howard vs. Shane Buechele
The quarterbacks for each team are having similar seasons from a statistical standpoint. West Virginia’s Howard, a senior, is completing 65.1 percent of his passes while Buechele, a true freshman, is completing 61.9 percent of his passes for Texas.
Both have weapons at their disposal and have shown the ability to spread the ball around. Buechele has completed passes to 13 different Longhorns this season while Howard has spread the ball to 11 teammates.
This game will showcase two very similar quarterbacks that given the chance will take shots downfield. Watch for Howard target his go-to receiver in Daikiel Shorts and Buechele to look for Armanti Foreman.
While the similarities are plentiful the most glaring difference is the experience factor, although it’s fair to say that Buechele is playing beyond his years.
3. Can the Mountaineers chalk up a quality win on the road?
Yes even at 5-4 a win over Texas would be considered a quality one, especially in Austin. The only other true road test West Virginia has faced this season was at Oklahoma State, which ended up being a 37-20 loss.
The last time the Mountaineers traveled to Austin was in 2014 where they lost 33-16. West Virginia needs this game much more than the Texas, who is already out of the Big 12 title race.
The Mountaineers have not won in Austin since 2012, their first season in the Big 12. With the way the Longhorns have played the last several weeks it will be a tall task for Dana Holgorsen’s team to leave Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium with a victory.
This is probably the most interesting game remaining on the Mountaineers’ schedule. Without a quality road win, West Virginia is still struggling to gain respect in the eyes of the College Football Playoff selection committee.
Texas has seen its share of controversy this season with rumors swirling regarding head coach Charlie Strong’s job security. The Longhorns can secure bowl eligibility with a win, which also would be a second over a ranked Big 12 team.
Texas’ D’Onta Foreman will cause problems for the Mountaineers’ defense, which has been solid against the run this season. And while Shane Buechele is just a true freshman, his lack of experience won’t prevent him from taking shots down field against West Virginia’s secondary.
But Buechele’s youth could come into play against the Mountaineers’ unique 3-3-5 defensive alignment. Expect defensive coordinator Tony Gibson to come up with schemes to try and confuse Buechele when he drops back to throw. Protection could be an issue too, as the Longhorns’ offensive line has given up 20 sacks on the season.
The spread in this game is small for good reason. West Virginia’s defense will have its work cut out for it against Foreman and Texas’ other offensive weapons. The Mountaineers also haven’t been as dominant a team away from Morgantown this season.
This game will be as close as expected but Texas will reach bowl eligibility on Saturday as the Longhorns play the role of spoiler for yet another Big 12 title contender.
Prediction: Texas 27, West Virginia 24
— 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.