Here is everything you need to know about the Big 12 showdown in Morgantown, West Virginia between the West Virginia Mountaineers and Texas Longhorns in our preview and prediction.
Date: Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017, 12:00 PM E.T., Milan Puskar Stadium, Morgantown, WV
TV: ESPN | Beth Mowins (Play-by-play), Anthony Becht (analyst), Rocky Boiman (Field Analyst)
Radio: Longhorn IMG Radio Network | Craig Way (play-by-play), Roger Wallace (analyst), and Quan Cosby (sideline)
Radio: IMG Mountaineers Sports Network | Tony Caridi (play-by-play), Dwight Wallace (analyst), Jed Drenning (sideline)
Satellite Radio: Sirius 136, XM 201
Fun facts: The series started in 1956, but this season’s matchup will mark the sixth straight season the Longhorns and Mountaineers have squared off since WVU joined the Big 12. WVU leads the all-time series 4-2.
Davante Davis, cornerback
Davis saw a ton more playing time last week against Kansas following the suspension of star cornerback Holton Hill. Davis had three tackles all season and had zero stats in Big 12 play until last week against Kansas when he racked up seven tackles. The Kansas passing game was a good way for Davis to get his feet wet before having to take on Will Grier and company.
Daniel Young, running back
Young led the team with 21 carries for 67 yards last week against Kansas. The last two weeks he has 33 carries, when he had a combined 11 for the entire season before the TCU game. If Young gets the majority of the work he will look for that breakout game as he goes up against a West Virginia rushing defense that is the second worst in the Big 12 with 191 rushing yards allowed.
West Virginia Mountaineers
Gary Jennings, wide receiver
David Sills is getting all the attention, rightfully so in some cases with his ridiculous 18 touchdown catches. But it’s Jennings who led the team again last week with 13 catches for 115 yards. He has 27 more catches than Sill this season and leads the Big 12 with over 8 receptions per game.
Ezekiel Rose, defensive end
Rose leads the team with 4.5 sacks on the season and goes up against a Texas offensive line that has been absolutely brutal in recent weeks. The junior has come on strong lately with 2.5 sacks over his past three games, along with a forced fumble and an interception last week in a win over the Kansas State Wildcats.
WVU pass offense vs. Texas secondary
This is the match up of the game. The Longhorns can stop the run with the best of them, but the good news for WVU is that Texas is more vulnerable against the pass and that was evident last week against Kansas, especially with the suspension of Holton Hill. But quarterback Will Grier must protect the ball. After throwing just five interceptions in his first seven games, Grier has thrown seven over the past three games. The Longhorns are second in the Big 12 with 13 interceptions this season. Also, Texas has been as opportunity as any defense with their non-offensive touchdowns. In fact, UT’s seven non-offensive touchdowns in 2017 are more than the 2014-16 seasons combined and the most since the 2009 team that played for a national championship.
Grier needs to play a clean game and have all weapons on the outside from Jennings to Sills to White all playing physical against the Texas secondary.
Can WVU stop the run?
They haven’t all season, allowing 190 rushing yards per game. Texas is such a mess on the offensive line and it’s not clear what is going on at quarterback, so expect a combination of Daniel Young, Kyle Porter, Chris Warren and Toneil Carter to get plenty of touches and try to slow the game down. All-American offensive lineman Connor Williams is expected back this week for UT, but expectations can’t be too high, as he’s been out with a knee injury since the USC game.
If this does become a field position game, advantage: Texas. Longhorns punter Michael Dickson has had an All-American type of season, averaging nearly 49 yards per punt, by far the best in the Big 12. Meantime for the Mountaineers, Billy Kinney is serviceable, but his 39 yards per punt is near the bottom of the Big 12. The Mountaineers are also near the bottom of the conference in kickoff coverage. Texas would love to play this kind of game on Saturday.
West Virginia 35, Texas 24
West Virginia is starting to hit its stride by picking up a couple of nice wins over Iowa State and Kansas State the past two weeks. The Mountaineers are vastly underrated this season and it’s a shame they aren’t in the Top 25 right now. They should be. WVU doesn’t have a single bad loss this season. They’re being undervalued here, while Texas remains a mess and its defense did not look nearly as proficient without Holton Hill last week. Plus, November has treated Dana Holgorsen’s group well in recent years. The Mountaineers are 9-1 in November dating back to 2015.