LOCATION: Jones AT&T Stadium, Lubbock, TX
TIME: 11:00 CT Saturday, October 15 (FS1)
BETTING LINE: West Virginia -1
WEST VIRGINIA PLAYER TO WATCH:
West Virginia has been consistently solid on the ground with Justin Crawford and Rushel Shell. What they’ll really need to beat the Red Raiders is air support from their senior quarterback. Howard has not had a truly awful performance but he hasn’t had a stellar performance either. He’s played one bad defense (Youngstown State), one iffy defense (BYU), and two great defenses (Missouri and K-State). Texas Tech definitely fits in with Youngstown State. If he lights up the backfield, it’ll be near-impossible for Texas Tech to get enough stops to win.
TEXAS TECH PLAYER TO WATCH:
Last week’s debacle was not to blame on the defensive backfield at all. They were forced to cover forever while the line struggled to put pressure on Jesse Ertz. That being said, David Gibbs’ defensive strategy is built around turnovers, something Tech has not generated at all. The Red Raiders have a pathetic .5 takeaways per game, enough for 127th in FBS, which has 128 teams. Even one interception from anybody would help, but it would be huge if Nelson, the leader of the secondary got a pick.
WEST VIRGINIA POSITION GROUP PREVIEW
Skyler Howard has only been sacked once per game, and he holds onto the ball for a long time. This O-Line should dominate Tech’s defense.
Justin Crawford has played fantastic and last year’s starter Rushel Shell has done great in the backup role. At least one should reach 100 yards easily.
Howard hasn’t wowed me yet, but he certainly has a prime opportunity to do that against the Red Raiders. If he has a big game, West Virginia will likely win easily.
West Virginia has a few pretty good receivers, but they don’t have a bona fide star. Shelton Gibson is the closest thing to a leader for the wideouts.
West Virginia has had a hard time bringing the quarterback down. This line will stop the run well, but pressure on Mahomes will be vital.
This linebacking corps is mainly new guys, but they’re learning quick. No glaring flaws have shown themselves yet.
Karl Joseph’s injury may have hurt the Mountaineers in the short term, but it has helped this year. The backfield is experienced and highly dangerous.
Josh Lambert is one of the best kickers in the nation. If Tech gives him a chance to win the game, he’ll probably get it done for West Virginia.
Dana Holgorsen started the year on a seat that was getting a bit toasty. He hasn’t won quite enough to cool it down all the way, but any time there is a 0 in the loss column, you can’t complain.
GAME PREVIEW ANALYSIS
These two teams are much more evenly matched than it may appear at first. West Virginia is coming in 4-0, already with two bye weeks behind them getting ready for an 8-game stretch of Big 12 football. Texas Tech is 3-2, but they were in both of their losses well into the fourth quarter. Lubbock has often been where Big 12 dreams come to die, and this has happened to West Virginia once before. In 2012, the Mountaineers first year in the conference, West Virginia was fifth in the country heading into Lubbock. The Red Raiders smothered them 49-14 that year. While West Virginia ended up having a not-so-great season, Texas Tech pulled another huge upset at home. Who could forget when Sam Bradford’s sophomore year ended in failure after a loss to tech in 2007? And that’s not even mentioning this historic season, in which Tech beat Texas and Oklahoma State while both were in the top ten. West Virginia is perhaps the only team not named Baylor that has a chance at reaching the playoffs in this conference. I personally thought they would lose to either BYU or Missouri out of conference, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised by their play thus far. I can see why the betting line has been tiptoeing around even this whole week. However, the fact of the matter is that defense wins games. Texas Tech will not score on every possession, and they may need to in order to outscore West Virginia. If the defense gets two or three stops, this game will be another Red Raider upset. If the defense falls on their face yet again, there’s almost no scenario where Tech can win. I tend to avoid trusting the Red Raiders’ defense, so I think the Mountaineers escape with a zero still in the loss column. Those two byes may hurt the Mountaineers later in the season when they’re not rested, but they’ll be ready to play Saturday afternoon.
TEXAS TECH POSITION GROUP PREVIEW
Le’Raven Clark has been missed more than previously thought. This line has allowed a lot of defensive players to get into the pocket way too fast.
I’ve been quite underwhelmed with the running game this year. Felton, White, and Stockton have shared duties, and none have taken over as the leader yet.
With Kliff Kingsbury on the staff, it’s hard to go wrong at quarterback. If Tech had an average defense, Mahomes would be frontrunner for Heisman.
Giles has really stepped up this year, but it’s still hard to put him ahead of the 7 or 8 other great receivers on this roster.
Texas Tech may be getting more sacks than West Virginia, but does not excuse the beatdown they’ve taken in all five games so far this year.
Once a running back flies past the line, they’ve got a full head of steam. The linebackers don’t tackle well enough to stop somebody with any momentum.
Unsung heroes of this season, covering well while the defense tries to get to the quarterback. Have to see more turnovers before I consider them good.
A major drop off has occurred this year. Hatfield is having a sophomore slump, and none of the receivers have come close to recreating the electricity Jakeem Grant brought.
Kliff Kingsbury would have to make some huge mistakes this year for his seat to even get warm. The fact is though, Tech isn’t winning enough football games.