Mountaineers, Red Raiders look to light up the scoreboard
Admit it, you offensive gearheads. When you saw West Virginia and Texas Tech showing up on this week’s schedule, the hairs on your arms immediately started to stand up on end. Am I right? Chicken skin? Goose bumps? Adrenaline levels rising?
Well buckle in tightly people. This Big 12 showdown just East o’ the Pecos is going to be one wild ride. The Mountaineers come in third in the country in passing offense at 374 yards per game and the Red Raiders are first at 436. Yes, these guys are a blur.
The boys from Lubbock have a habit of bringing in a new quarterback and continuing to break records. That is a good way to describe Alan Bowman, a true freshman who threw for 605 yards against Houston in his first start. That broke Patrick Mahomes' frosh record of 598 yards in a game, and we all know what became of Mr. Mahomes. Last week Bowman engineered the Raiders’ first win over Oklahoma State since 2008 and their first win in Stillwater since '01 while also picking up national quarterback of the week honors.
The Mountaineers have a burgeoning All-American QB in Will Grier who is climbing up the Heisman boards with his near-perfection from the pocket. If you’re keeping track at home, Grier has now thrown just 24 incompletions in 95 attempts on the young season. And he’s got a bevy of difference-makers in his arsenal.
So let’s just hope the scoreboard operator doesn’t get carpal tunnel syndrome.
West Virginia at Texas Tech
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 29 at 12 p.m. ET
Spread: West Virginia -3.5
Three Things to Watch
1. The defense... no really, the defense
Unlike their games vs. Ole Miss and Houston, the Red Raiders may have finally found their defense after the win over Oklahoma State. While they got pock-marked a bit in the first half, they held the Pokes scoreless in the second half as they ran away with the game. The Raiders got safety Jah’Shawn Johnson back from injury last week and he made a huge difference in the win over OSU. But Tech still ranks No. 106 in total defense, giving up 437 yards per game. This is what gives West Virginia a slight edge, having been on lock-down a bit more than the Raiders. The Mountaineers have held their opponents to just four touchdowns in 12 quarters and rank 41st nationally at 338 yards per game allowed.
2. The running game... no really, the running game
Believe it or not, whichever team can produce a better offensive mix will probably have a much bigger advantage because the running game will be so key for opening up the passing game. Tech’s Demarcus Felton posted his first 100-yard rushing game in nearly two years by gaining 130 on the ground in the win in Stillwater. The Mountaineers have a three-headed monster of Leddie Brown, Kennedy McKoy and Martell Pettaway, who have combined for nearly 500 rushing yards in three games. Look for the running games to keep the defenses honest. And of course, he who runs better probably wins here.
3. Secondary coverage
I’m not making any bold statements here when I say that these back sevens for both teams are going to be stressed to the hilt. Tech has had some coverage issues in their first few games, especially when they got burned by Ole Miss QB Jordan Ta’amu for 336 yards. Because of that, Tech’s pass defense is 109th in the country (284 ypg) while West Virginia’s is 44th (193 ypg). Advantage Mountaineers. Also, keep an eye on third down as WVU’s offense ranks second nationally with a 63 percent conversion rate. Thank Mr. Grier for that. But Tech’s defense is 14th-best in allowing just 28 percent of third downs to be converted.
This one is an oddity in the college football landscape. West Virginia is favored to win the game, although by only three and a half points, but ESPN’s matchup predictor shows Texas Tech with a 61.4 percent chance of winning. So go figure. It’s Las Vegas vs. Bristol in this one, depending on your allegiances.
Prior to last week, Double T was the most penalized team in the country, committing 32 infractions for 321 yards, but then they cut that back to just four penalties in the win at Oklahoma State. If they keep playing clean this week that’ll be a huge advantage. Still, it’s hard to pick against the Mountaineers with their senior quarterback and playmaking wideouts.
Prediction: West Virginia 52, Texas Tech 42
— Written by Eric Sorenson, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He is a college football, college baseball and college hockey addict... and writer. Follow him on Twitter @Stitch_Head.