Sat 10/5 8:00 PM ET
Floyd Casey Stadium
Okla St. 31-20 W
Sirius/XM: 113 / 192
ULM 70-7 W
Series: WVU 1-0
First Meeting: 2012
Last Meeting: 2012
MATCH-UPS, MUSINGS AND MORE
We've covered the Bears' offensive productivity in-depth, with Matt Keller's Baylor Breakdown doing an exhaustive job on that angle of the game. The defense has also gotten some mention, but we're drawn to the match-up of West Virginia's offensive tackles against the Bears' defensive ends.
WVU's offensive line has been less than stellar so far this year, owning to a number of changes and the lack of playing time, if not chronological age, among the ranks. The tackle spots appear to be set now with Curtis Feigt and Nick Kindler on the edges, but one has to wonder if that's a case of the jobs being won, or the coaches simply deciding to end the shuffling and substitution parade. That's the first thing to keep an eye on this week -- is it the same five offensive linemen on the field for each Mountaineer possession?
Whoever is there will face the penetration skills of Shawn Oakman and Chris McAllister, who hold down the edges of the BU defensive front. Oakman has eight tackles for loss among his 12 stops, while McAlilister, who has 1.5 sacks this year, has ten in his career.
If trends seen in the season to date hold true, WVU will have to throw the ball to move it, as the running attack has been spotty at best. That makes this battle all the more important, and while it's not the only pass rush item to watch (pickups of blitzing linebacker Sam Holl will also be key), the Mountaineers have to stop pressure from the outside in order to give its quarterbacks time to throw.
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The mobility of WVU quarterback Clint Trickett was a help to West Virginia's offense last week, but like many easily-recognized items, it quickly was blown out of all proportion by the media and many observers. We're not about hype here, so these are the real keys to take from his moves in and from the pocket.
1) Trickett himself admitted," I'm no Pat White" in his postgame reactions. He's not going to make defenders miss. His ability to slide away from pressure and extend the play is a good one, and it's something that he can build on, but he's not going to rush for 50 yards per game. Which leads to...
2) Trickett's accuracy on those slides wasn't great. Certainly his injuries may have been a big contributing factor, so it would be wrong to say he can't throw on the run. However, he missed his target on at least four such passes, and a couple of those were short throws without an intervening defender. Also, his receivers have to help as well by coming back to the ball or getting separation after initially being covered.
The upshot of this is that, as usual, there has been a big overreaction to this one aspect of the game. Certainly, Trickett moves better than the other quarterback contenders, and that's something that can be a factor in WVU's ability to move the ball. However, there need to be more completions out of those situations before it can be considered a game-changing item.
A NUMBER WORTH COUNTING
It's two numbers this week for the price of one: 31 and 34. Those numbers are close to each other, but they need to separate for West Virginia to have a chance to knock off the Bears.
When facing an explosive offense, a tried and true tactic is to possess the ball, drain the clock and limit the opposition's chances. However, that's not really a part of Dana Holgorsen's offensive DNA. West Virginia (like Baylor and Oklahoma State) are more concerned with running plays at a quicker pace and keeping the defense off balance, so the way to extend possessions (and limit those of foes) is to convert third down opportunities.
Is there a way that WVU could meld these two strategies? Could it milk the clock while still playing at its desired tempo? In some respects, it's not possible, because snapping the ball with 25 seconds left on the play clock means those ticks are still there, rather than being bled away. WVU can help its effort by completing passes, of course, which don't cause clock stoppages, and the emergence of a running game would also help, but the Mountaineers have to keep the ball -- and score at the end of those possessions -- if they hope to knock off their second consecutive Top 25 opponent.
BEER OF THE WEEK
Back when I started this item, I noted that it wasn't going to be solely dedicated to artsy brews or trendy labels. That's the case this week, as we look at a Texas favorite in honor of our trip to Waco.
The Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, Tex., puts out a number of quality beers, but its town namesake, Shiner Bock, is a favorite of mine. There's nothing pretentious about it, starting with the name -- "bock" is a German word meaning "strong lager" -- and that's just what you get in this straightforward brew with its roots in the old country. It's smooth, doesn't leave any lingering bitterness and is always looked forward to on any Texas trip.
Spoetzl puts out a number of other brews across the beer range, from light blondes to black lagers, and honestly you can't go wrong with any of them. Spoetzl's products are available in most areas of the U.S, other than the northeast, and you won't be disappointed if you make an effort to track it down in your area. We'll definitely have it on the target list on this visit to the Lone Star State.
ONE MORE THING...
Want to see what West Virginia's offensive line of the future might look like? Then take a gander at Baylor's squad. The Bears don't have a blocker on the two deep that stands shorter than 6-4, and their tight ends are almost as massive. The right guard spot is particularly heavy, where Cyril Richardson (6-5, 340 lbs.) and LaQuan McGowan (6-6, 385 lbs.) literally hold down the position.
West Virginia's recruiting efforts have targeted taller linemen over the past couple of years, and every commit on this year's list stands at least 6-5 or taller. All figure to top out at more than 300 pounds. That's a look down the road for the Mountaineers, but one that Baylor trots out on the field today. The Bears' line performance gets lost in the gaudy statistics recorded by their skill position players, but it's a big reason for their success. BU has the best line in the Big 12, and the match-up between it and West Virginia's defensive front will be critical.