I feel like this is going to be a really good game, and for the first time this season, I think this game is going to be about the offense needing to come through moreso than the Texas defense.
Maybe the D has started to make me a believer. And I also think WVU QB Skyler Howard is just a slightly better than average QB in the Big 12. So the matchup for the Texas defense is a little better than, say, the Baylor or Texas Tech games the past two weeks.
Of course, we all thought K-State's Jesse Ertz was pedestrian, and the Longhorns ended up making him look like Russell Wilson.
But this appears to be a more confident, more tied together Texas defense, and I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt against WVU's speedy, problematic WRs - Shelton Gibson and Dakiel Shorts and shifty RB Justin Crawford.
The Texas offense is in for a long day, it seems. WVU's defense plays with a lot of confidence (see my breakdown of the Mountaineers' improvement on D in this week's HD ONLY).
I think it could be a real struggle for RB D'Onta Foreman to match Earl Campbell's record of 11 straight games with 100 yards rushing. And Sterlin Gilbert needs to have his best day of play-calling as a Longhorn. No more taking D Foreman and Shane Buechele, two of your team's best players, off the field in any critical situation.
It wouldn't shock me if Texas trailed in this game for some or all of the first half before finally breaking through in the third or fourth quarter.
I think P Michael Dickson will play a key role in this game for Texas. Field position is going to matter. Any plays made in special teams could influence the outcome of this one.
I'll say the home field advantage and D Foreman's force-of-will determination ultimately make the difference.
TEXAS 24 ... WVU 23
At the end of the day, I fully believe Saturday's game is going to be determined by how well the Texas offense can play against one of the best defenses in the Big 12.
West Virginia's offense has done a good job this season, but I think the Longhorns' offense is the better of the two teams. The way the Texas defense has played over the last several games makes me believe that unit has turned the corner and will be able to step up to the task of stopping the West Virginia offense. So this game is going to come down to the UT offense.
West Virginia's defense is a significant factor as to why the Mountaineers are 7-1 and a top ranked team this season. Sterlin Gilbert will be faced with a tough task in WVU, especially considering how well the defense has played against its opponents' ground game.
D'Onta Foreman's ability to get in the open field against a unit that is allowing an average 148 rushing yards per game will directly impact the outcome of this game, in my opinion.
If Foreman can light up the Mountaineers' defense and have another solid performance, and Shane Buechele can put together a consistent, game-managing type of performance, then I think Texas could very well leave DKR Texas Memorial Stadium with a W Saturday afternoon.
However, I am just not convinced this offense will be as successful against West Virginia's defense as some people may think, so I'm going with my gut on this one.
WEST VIRGINIA 31 TEXAS 27
ALLEN PERKINS - HD CONTRIBUTOR
This is a huge game for Texas. A shot to become bowl eligible. A chance to “save” the coach they love.
The Horns are up for the challenge because the defense is improving. During conference play, Texas has forced four turnovers in the red zone (best in the Big 12).
Texas’ defense was only responsible for 30 of Texas Tech's 37 points in last week's 45-37 win on the road. The week before that, Texas held Baylor to six points during three straight RZ trips in the second half.
The Texas defense will cause problems for Skyler Howard.
The Longhorns have 34 sacks (second only to Alabama's 37), and Howard is careless with the football. So I expect Howard to provide a bounty of opportunities for turnovers. Texas needs to capitalize.
Including the OU game, Texas has only scored 17 points off 12 turnovers.
Sterlin Gilbert’s play calling was at times to blame. Gilbert needs to trash the 18 (insert name) package and diversify his play calls (as he did against Tech).
WVU is a balanced offense (33.3 PG, 224 rushing YPG and 287 passing YPG). WR Shelton Gibson has 636 receiving yards and six TDs. Gibson is also a threat on kick returns. RBs Justin Crawford (6.2 ypc, 4 TDs) and Rushel Shell (4.9 ypc, 5 TDs) are elusive, fast and can catch. Both have 11 receptions, and Crawford has 1 receiving TD.
WVU is the best defense Texas has faced. They do everything well. WVU only allows 20.6 PPG and ranks first in most defensive categories during Big 12 play. LB Justin Arndt (46 tackles) anchors the WVU defense. CB Rasul Douglas’ five interceptions are second in the FBS.
If Texas can score TDs off of turnovers, they win…
TEXAS 31 WEST VIRGINIA 24
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