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West Virginia vs. Texas Prediction: Longhorns Look to Rebound at Home Against Mountaineers

Both teams are in search of their first Big 12 victory.

The West Virginia Mountaineers will travel to Austin this weekend to take on the Texas Longhorns. West Virginia comes into the game with a 2-2 record (0-1 in Big 12) but will be looking to log its third win in a row. Early losses to what now appear to be decent Pitt and Kansas teams don't look quite as bad as they did at the time. A win over the Longhorns on the road could change the entire trajectory and expectations for the rest of the season.

Texas (2-2, 0-1 Big 12) comes into the game looking to rebound after last week's loss to Texas Tech in Lubbock. That defeat and the loss to Alabama came by a combined four points. That number tells two stories: Texas is close to being where it wants to be but also needs to figure out how to win close games. 

Related: College Football Predictions for Every Game in Week 5

Both teams will be looking for that all-important first conference win of the season in what looks to be a hotly contested Big 12 race.

West Virginia at Texas

Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 1, 7:30 p.m. ET
TV: FS1
Live Stream: fuboTV (Start your free trial)
Spread: Texas -10.5
Tickets: As low as $21 on SITickets.com

When West Virginia Has the Ball

Quarterback JT Daniels has been fairly efficient in piloting the Mountaineer offense. He has taken good care of the football and keeps defenses guessing by spreading targets around to different receivers. That said, his favorite target this season has been Bryce Ford-Wheaton. The big-bodied wideout has hauled in four scores this season and really showed his full potential in the overtime loss to Kansas earlier in the season. He'll need to have another huge game for West Virginia to pull off the upset over the Longhorns.

When West Virginia runs the ball, they like to use a committee of converted tight end CJ Donaldson, Tony Mathis Jr., and Justin Johnson Jr. The three of them have combined for 797 yards and nine scores on the season. If the Mountaineers can be effective in the run game, they can keep this one close throughout.

When Texas Has the Ball

Longhorns head coach Steve Sarkisian has been fairly secretive about the status of his team's quarterback position and who will get the start on Saturday. There's a chance that Quinn Ewers could be back and fully recovered from a clavicle sprain earlier in the season. If not, Hudson Card likely gets the start again. Card has been good, but not great in Ewers' absence. He has been efficient enough to keep the Longhorns competitive, but the Texas offense needs Ewers' ability to force the ball downfield in order to reach its full potential. 

Texas would be wise to put the game in the hands of running back Bijan Robinson, who has been close to as-advertised so far this season. Robinson is the most talented player on the field in almost every game Texas plays. The problem is, everyone is aware of that fact, and opposing defenses adjust accordingly. He will get some big plays in, but Sarkisian and Co. need to find creative ways to get him the ball and prevent the Mountaineer defense from keying in on him.

Final Analysis

This game has the potential to be much closer than the spread would indicate. The talent gap — outside of Robinson — is not likely going to be a factor. The home atmosphere of a night game in Austin should favor the Longhorns early on. As the game progresses, the deciding factor will be how Texas responds to West Virginia's body blows. Having a healthy Ewers under center stacks more chips in the Longhorns' favor, but West Virginia has proven to be ready for a fight regardless of the odds or the current score. We could be looking at a coin-flip game in Austin this weekend.

Prediction: Texas 33, West Virginia 30

Podcast: Week 5 Preview, Predictions and Picks Against the Spread

— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. His work has appeared on SI.com, FoxSports.com, Yahoo! SBNation and Bleacher Report. He is a three-time FWAA writing contest award winner. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.

*Price as of publication.